As I refer to them regularly, The Coens are “Golden Boys” of cinema on levels that even elevators give thumbs up emojis too amd they don’t disappoint here at The Gunn Range . They are master craftsman whose style exudes through dialogue and stories that translate into a cinephiles happiest wet dream while making the regular film goer sink into their seat with their uniquely realized characters and complex plots. Is this their best film of all time? Well of course it isn’t, but it doesn’t need to be. Hail, Caesar is another feather in the Coens caps that has not translated through financials (so don’t be fooled). Hail, Caesar is a film about films about Cold War era topics that’s, you guessed it, in film. The cast is stacked from head to toe with returning members of their respective casts lists such as Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Francis McDormand among others with the inclusions of new faces that steal the scenes they partake in, and what we get is a film deeper than the title leads us to believe.
Trademarks of the Coens are clear whether you’re a fan of their earlier works or their more mainstream efforts whereas the topic of kidnapping returns to the forefront of the plot like seen in Fargo or Raising Arizona. While the quirky period piece settings add to an already satirical comedy, their presence adds to the details of how films go into production with success. Brolin takes the lead as a film equalizer and “fixer” of sorts who has his hands full with the productions of countless films that range from the classic film noir to the tap dancing musicals that swarmed theaters in the 50’s – which has a marvelously realized scene with Channing Tatum – to the underwater ballet performances that takes from the Coens other works like The Big Lebowski.
What allows this film to be what it is all begins and ends with the levels of dialogue the Coens are able to write for their characters. Their direction brings a sense of dry, yet energetic comedy that serves as a side dish to a mystery that may or may not be the main course to our meal of entertainment. Hail, Caesar adds to the trending topics in films of last year bringing an era of the United States to life that resembles both Trumbo and a film they wrote for Steven Spielberg respectively that is Bridge of Spies. Taking away the tone of those films and adding the trademark quirkiness to the story makes for a movie full of lead heavy discussion topics as well as mysteries you will still want answers for by the end of the film.
The best parts about the film are the scenes that do not remind us of anything else other than the homages paid to different genres of movies in the 50’s. It’s clear they are positively influenced by that era of film and the shots captured to emulate those eras and styles of films make for a unique viewing that goes far and beyond the standard movie mysteries that most of us have seen.
Films and film makers who write their own stories have a knack of putting in their respective opinions through their pictures and this was a film that portrayed certain opinions that all can debate about to the forefront in a hilarious and mocking way that doesn’t go beyond its boundaries. The Coens have been doing this whole film making thing for a long time and at a high level so it makes sense for them to have a deeper understanding on what goes on behind the scenes when making or attempting to make films. With that being said, beyond the satirical humor and excellent visuals by legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins, the narrative of the film is so filled with such adventurous ideas that it takes you on a valley of uncertainty when it comes to how they want to make you feel. If they had kept those metaphoric images and ideas, but substituted their good on paper type of concepts to a minimum, and just focused on the “main” story at hand it would have garnered more audience attention, but the Coens aren’t for every audience.
The true scene stealer is an actor I’ve never seen before by the name of Alden Ehrenreich who plays an actor who made his fame in the western genre only to be transferred to high end drama films and he does it with a humor and flair I hope to see more of. As expected, the clip released that pins Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes’ character is comedy genius that delivers with belly laughs and giggles galore. Under the surface of its stew of genres is a film with a lot to say about film among other things, but while it halts certain aspects of the film it doesn’t derail the story. For someone who is alright with quirky senses of humor and a style that fuses other styles, like a film potluck of sorts, will appreciate this for what it is, and what it definitely is not.