Since the BvS hysteria has died down and the next superhero craze hasn’t started yet, let’s review a movie that I’m 3 months late to review – Hail, Caesar! by The Coen brothers. In my defense, UK was probably the last place that this movie was released in. However, I do acknowledge the fact that, although I saw this movie probably 2 months ago, I couldn’t find time to discuss it. Well, better late than never, so without further ado, let’s talk about The Coen brothers themselves and their newest creation – Hail, Caesar!
The Coen Brothers
I would argue that The Coen brothers deserve to be called the modern auteurs of contemporary filmmaking for they distinct style and accomplishments in cinematic storytelling. They are able to take the core archetypes – the premises for either tragic or comedic stories – and make something spectacular and unique out of it. To give a few examples of this, I will briefly discuss their most well-known comedy The Big Lebowski, their most famous tragedy No Country For Old Men and their wonderful combination of these two polar opposites – Fargo.
The Big Lebowski: the kooky and quirky comedy that gave a start to a whole new religion. One of the weirdest films that I have ever watched, yet it still very clear and extremely funny. The story is kinda ridiculous (happens by accident and is a misunderstanding) but the film somehow makes sense in the end.
No Country For Old Men: a slow and suspenseful masterpiece, filmed in wide shots. Aurally haunting because of the lack of score. A great character study in a cohesive style of The Coens but, at the same time, very extraordinary and different.
Fargo: another example of the great usage of the wide and long shots. The film has a lot of old school ‘fade to black’ transitions and uses the music really well. The mise-en-scene is full of white ‘any-space-whatevers’, as described by Deleuze. And, of course, all the ‘yah’ lines in that Minnesota dialect are iconic. Fargo is probably my favorite film by The Coen brothers.
Other films that The Coen brothers either fully made or only partially contributed to that I have seen are: Inside Llewyn Davis – very personal story of a musician. This movie introduced me to Oscar Isaac for the very first time. The Coens also worked on Bridge of Spies’s and Unbroken’s scripts. Both of these films are very enjoyable.
Although, I have seen quite a few films made by The Coen duo, but I want to watch a lot more, especially Raising Arizona, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, Miller’s Crossing, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and True Grit.
Now, let me tell you 5 things about Hail, Caesar!
IMDb summary: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line.
- To begin with Hail, Caesar! was The Coen brothers’ love letter to old Hollywood. While watching this film, I was taken back to the Golden Age of Hollywood and got a chance to directly witness the behind-the-scenes inner workings of the movie business. Other films about the creation of motion pictures, which you might want to check out if you are interested, are the old school Singin’ in the Rain and the newer ones like Trumbo, Hugo and even Argo.
- The actual story of Hail, Caesar! was quite hectic and overwhelming. Some scenes seemed to come out of nowhere, but I guess that just showed how unpredictable the movie business was/is. I really liked the 24h time frame of the plot as well as the fact that we got to see all the aspect of filmmaking: the pre-production, the principal photography and the post-production. The constant narration also did not irritate me. However, a few of the jokes seemed to be quite painfully awkward, at least to me.
- Hail, Caesar! explored themes like the manipulation of people, the power of the public image and the importance of movies. It also looked at the business vs. creativity dichotomy of the film industry. The picture also had a lot of religious undertones and Christian imagery. Overall, the picture was a great synthesis of the traditional and the modern.
- Hail, Caesar! tied itself to reality/history with that communist screenwriters plot-line, which I did not enjoy that much. It just seemed like the easiest route to go to for the movie that is set during the Cold War. I wish that the end-game of the film would have been different, because I have seen enough movies (from all genres) that have already explored the East vs. West divide of the 20th century and did that in a more compelling way.
- Hail, Caesar! had a huge an accomplished cast, but, sadly, this film seemed like a paycheck gig for the majority of the actors. I feel awful for saying this, because this is The Coen brothers’ movie after all. Josh Brolin (Everest, Sicario, Marvel), a long-time collaborator of The Coens, led the cast and did a nice job. George Clooney (Tomorrowland), another favorite of The Coens, seemed to be playing himself (at least that version of him that the media has created). The relative newcomer Alden Ehrenreich played quite a stereotypical character, but he managed to subvert that stereotype. Ralph Fiennes (Spectre), Jonah Hill (Jump Street films), Scarlett Johansson (Marvel, Chef), Fargo’s Frances McDormand as well as Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer) also had minor but very theatrical roles. Lastly, Channing Tatum (Jump Street, Magic Mike and Step Up films) rounded up the cast. His musical number reminded me a lot of Frank Sinatra’s and Gene Kelly’s performance in 1945’s Anchors Aweigh.
In short, Hail, Caesar! was not the best The Coen brothers’ film, but it was still enjoyable and pleasant. A solid B picture.
Trailer: Hail, Caesar! trailer