By Jack Dignan
The Coen Brothers are two of the greatest filmmakers working today, giving us such classics as The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country For Old Men and countless others. They are both masterclass directors and writers, and so when it's announced that they have a new film coming out, you bet I'll be excited. Hail, Caesar was my second most anticipated movie of 2016, trailing slowly behind Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and did it let me down? Not too much, although that's the price you pay for having excessively high expectations, but on the bright side, this is still one hell of a movie.
Hail, Caesar is set in 1950s Hollywood and follows the story of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a man who goes around to movie sets and makes sure everything is in line. He makes sure everything is holding together and the cast and crew are doing their job, as well as keeping the press where he wants them to be kept, especially the nosy sisters, Thora and Thessaly (both played by Tilda Swinton). Soon, however, things don't seem to go as planned, and one of their biggest movie stars, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped by a group of writers who call themselves 'the future.' What do they want? $100,000. Why? It's up to Mannix, as well as a group of talented actors, to find out, and help get their movie star back so he can finish the blockbuster he's working on, titled 'Hail, Caesar!'
When you see a Coen Brothers film, you never know what to expect. With The Big Lebowski, I wasn't at all prepared for the stoner trip I was about to witness. With No Country For Old Men, I didn't realise I was going to be in agonising suspense for two hours. With True Grit, I didn't think I'd be laughing and cheering as Jeff Bridges rode on horseback to take on four other men on horseback. With Hail, Caesar, I wasn't quite ready to be taken on a relentlessly weird and sensationally wild tale through old Hollywood, but I was, and I loved it.
The film is as wacky as they come, but in doing so, it managed to bring out the best of laughs, and there's never any one person who brought the most. Sure, Channing Tatum easily stole the show, but he got just as many laughs out of me as Alden Ehrenreich's Hobie Doyle did, and my god that character was funny. He's a western actor who's been put into a more serious role and with the comedic talents of Ralph Fiennes as his director, it's all sorts of brilliant, although not nearly as brilliant as the few scenes Tatum is in. Now they were something, alright.
It's rare to say this, but Hail, Caesar is one of the most wholeheartedly original and unique movies I have seen in quite some time. There's a few smaller, more familiar moments here and there, but as the saying goes, there's nothing original left. Hail, Caesar seems to have proven that wrong, as the film's central plot is certainly original, and therefore unpredictable. It's a roller coaster of events, and while some plots don't play any relevance to anything *cough Scarlett Johansson's character cough* the journey as a whole is quite a delightful one.
That being said, it did take a little time for me to really get engaged with it. My expectations for this film were through the roof, and I will be honest, for the first twenty or so minutes, I was slightly let down. I wasn't at all bored, in fact it was the opposite. I was having a great time watching, but I was never sure what I was watching. Hail, Caesar is a little on the slow side, the opening few scenes playing out much longer than they should've. Thankfully, it does pick up and it does get better, and while it was never boring, it did drag to begin with.
Another one of the many reasons that this film never managed to bore me was because of the performances these actors give. I've already mentioned how great Channing Tatum and Alden Ehrenreich were, but this is a film with a massive cast, and nearly all of them are put to good use. Josh Brolin and George Clooney are the two leads and they're both splendid, Clooney especially. He's a bumbling idiot, more so than in the few other roles in which he plays a similar sort of character. He can't do anything right and his plot is the most interesting of the lot. A kidnapped actor? Yes please. That's the stuff I wanted to see, and see it I did.
To sum up, Hail, Caesar is an utter delight, bringing together an a-list cast for a film that's certainly worthy of their talent. It takes some time to get into, but once you're in, there's no turning back, and once Channing Tatum arrives, you'll start to realise how worthwhile the whole really film is.