Let me start this off by stating that this is my first film experience with the massively talented writer/director/producer team that is the Coen Brothers. Minnesota natives Joel & Ethan Coen are directors, writers, and producers who are responsible for the film creations of Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and, most recently, Hail, Caesar!
I went in with uncertain, yet excited expectations. They weren’t high or low, just reasonable excitement. I went in believing this to be a big kidnapping, whodunit mystery thriller. I walked out pleasantly surprised by what I received otherwise. Hail, Caesar is this brilliant character study of this studio head/fixer named Eddie Mannix (played by Josh Brolin) and the emotional journey he goes through while trying to keep this studio from failing. He’s a problem solver trying to do what he does best, fix the problems. While he’s trying to make sure everything is running smoothly and deal with his own personal decision, we meet a cast of colorful characters, played by famous celebrities, who have their own problems and their own struggles. The main conflict is that lead actor and Hollywood heartthrob Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a group writers burned by the studio and who have become this communist cell because of it. All the while, we have an actress with an image problem and a baby on the way (Scarlett Johansson), a prestigious dramatic director (Ralph Fiennes) with an actor known for western films (Alden Ehrenreich), two twin sisters who both have controversial stories to spill in the press, and a big budget movie without its lead actor. This sounds stressful enough as it is without throwing in Mannix’s own personal dilemmas such as taking a new job as a fixer for an airline company and a family life that he is rarely involved in due to his current job.
The directors have proven to me that they are masters of conveying and manipulating emotions through this film. They also have an incredible vision that immerses you into this story so much so that the audience feels as if it’s in the story and carrying the weight of the characters with them. There are beautiful sequences and twists and turns throughout the story. While it may not have the most clear cut beginning, middle, end story, the film delivers a totally different type of movie that I can only describes as being innovative. Instead of telling a cohesive, three act film, the Coen brothers deliver a case study of the 1950s film industry that still holds weight and, I feel, is the brothers personal insight into the film industry today, slipping in themes that carry over today. These themes include image problems, creating public perception, the state of writers in the current industry, and just a genuine look into the billion dollar business using the 1950s to do it. While not really a musical, there is one musical number performed by Channing Tatum for his character’s film that I found to be entertaining. The entire film as a whole was wildly introspective and fun, all the while maintaining this film noir of the time period it is set in.
In short, I can only use the word brilliant in relation to this film. The only negatives are a few minor story flaws as to a not fully wrapped up conclusion and a few minor plot holes. This is certainly the best film I have seen yet in 2016. I enjoyed greatly. From what I have heard from Coen enthusiasts is that this was not their best film. If this was the Coen brothers at their worst, then I cannot wait to see them at their best. 9/10 would recommend to film lovers and enthusiasts. The general movie goer may or may not find this to be an entertaining film but I absolutely love it. I urge you to go and Hail, Caesar!