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Hail, Caesar! – Movie Review: “overblown, ridiculous… and utterly brilliant”

7 March, 2016 — by Matt Owen0

It’s very rare that you come across a movie that’s both totally unintelligible and completely satisfying, but hey, that’s why we love the Coen Brothers isn’t it? And that’s why Hail Caesar is a total joy from start to finish.


The first thing that strikes is the beautiful attention to detail. The whole film looks… expensive. It has the Coen’s trademark visual tics, but they’re framed in classic 50s Hollywood style. If you see an actor walking and they move away from the centre of the screen, you can bet someone is going to appear to balance things out. It gives everything a lush, fluid feeling that’s a perfect fit for the – often very silly and borderline meaningless – fast talking.

There is a plot of sorts here. Eddie Mannix (a superbly bluff Josh Brolin) heads up Capitol Pictures Studios in the early 50s, wrangling pregnant starlets, bizarre casting choices and lucrative job offers from Lockheed Martin along the way. Oh, and his biggest star has just been kidnapped by a communist collective of studio writers, led by… well, that would be telling.


The casting choices here are often inspired, with Coen regulars like Brolin, Clooney and Francis McDormand mingling with newcomers Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and  Scarlett Johansson, but the real genius is deciding just which classic Hollywood genre they’d work best in. Johannsson shines as a foul-mouthed chain-marrying starlet in a ridiculous underwater mermaid musical, but Channing Tatum’s dance number (involving a cast of whirling, flipping sailors bemoaning the lack of ‘dames’ out at sea) practically explodes out of the screen. There are also beautiful turns from Alden Ehrenreich’s dim-witted but insightful horse opera star, and some lovely bit parts from Tilda Swinton as twin sister gossip columnists.


The main thing is that it’s ridiculously silly. Everyone looks like they’re having a ball and you will too. There are several laugh out loud moments, and even though it has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, it’s awfully hard not to be swept up by Clooney’s Sword-and-Sandals epic speech (to a blond-haired Jesus), or wish you could see more of the ‘classy’ melodrama that the confusingly monikered Lawrence Lawrentz’ (Ralph Fiennes in suitably debonair mode) is grinding out on the soundstage next door.

The whole thing shows a massive love of classic Hollywood, with an underlying appreciation of just how bloody silly those films really were. A fantastic film up there with the Coens’ best. 4/5

Check out the rest of the latest cinema releases in our new film reviews section, including Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash.

Hail, Caesar!

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