The Cohen Brothers seemingly try their best to pick odd topics to make films about. From murders in a small snowy town to the adventures of a stoner Humphrey Bogart wannabe the Cohen’s try to mix different ideas and settings together to craft an interesting story. This time, the brothers take on a kidnapping in classic Hollywood.
Hail, Caesar! takes place in the late golden era of filmmaking, the 50s. With the fictional Capital Pictures producing several high budget films at once, the studio looks to Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), their fixer to make sure that the production and the actors are all in line.
But when one of the studios main actors, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), is kidnapped by a mysterious group calling themselves the future Mannix must use the resources of the studio and the help of a few actors to get their star back.
While the trailer for this movie would have you believe that this film is a mystery movie it’s instead more a oddball comedy, with the main focus being all of the trappings of the 50s. From giant sound stages producing swimming based films, to talks of hydrogen bombs and the red scare Hail, Caesar! takes its time building the world of the film. But the film goes the extra mile by featuring fully produced scenes from the fictional films each with their own modern day actor playing a star or director.
From a singing cowboy film (Alden Ehrenreich), to a musical about sailors (Channing Tatum), to a European drama (Ralph Fiennes) to a large scale swimming picture (Scarlett Johansson). Each of these scenes are build and filmed as if they were classic film that used modern day film and digital transfers. So while the film isn’t a mystery, it’s clear that there was a focus on being as true to the Hollywood period as they could be.
This attention to detail is what makes the movie so funny. What happens when you take a southern boy is put in a English drama? Well there’s a scene for that. How annoying would it be to dress as a mermaid for 12 hours a day on a film set? There’s one for that too.
But when the film isn’t focusing on the charms of old Hollywood the film starts to sink. With the kidnapping of the movie star one would hope for some bigger plot developments to match the seriousness of the situation. Instead we get a weird conclusion that makes the kidnapping feel more like a side plot to the fully produced film scenes.
That being said, the film is well crafted and doesn’t feel rushed or mistold. It’s only in hindsight that the whole films plot seems to take a back seat to a well choreographed scene featuring Tatum dancing in a sailor suit. Somehow the film takes the idea of following Mannix around a studio and fixing problems and makes it into a compelling movie.
Hail, Caesar! is a good movie, it has some great acting, fun set pieces and ideas in it’s 100 minute running time, but once you leave the theatre you might just wonder what it was all about in the end. But if your a fan of classic Hollywood, the film has enough to make you laugh and watch the Turner Classic Movies channel once you get home. SEE IN THEATRE.
Hail, Caesar! was produced by Mike Zoss Productions and Working Title Films. The film is distributed by Universal Pictures.