Review: “Hail Caesar!” – Not So Fast With The Hail
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: George Clooney, James Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand.
It should be widely known by now that if a movie is written, produced and directed by the Coen brothers, it is going to be a special kind of movie. However, that does not mean that it will be a good movie. With a slew of famous faces spread across the screen, Hail Caesar had the potential to be extraordinary and although there are extraordinary moments, is it worth the price of a movie ticket? The answer is… No…no it is not.
Hail Caesar is a “true story”. Reminder: when the Coen brothers call a story “true” they may or may not be lying. Fargo is the perfect example of that. Anyway, George Clooney plays famous movie star Baird Whitlock who is kidnapped on the set of his film and held for a $100,000 ransom. Who has kidnapped him and what do they want? Well, they are communists and they want to convert a highly regarded movie star to their cause.
Head of production at Capitol Pictures, Eddie Mannix (James Brolin) is torn between finding his missing movie star and choosing a job in the aviation industry. As he moves about his hectic day, taking meetings and dropping off a suitcase of ransom, he navigates his way through the studio lot.
This is where we are introduced to other movies stars such as DeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) and Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum). One of these characters directly relates to the missing star and the other one has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Alfred Hitchcock used to call this a “McGuffin”. A McGuffin is when there is a random scene or character in a movie that doesn’t directly relate to anything that is going on in the film. Well, if we may borrow Mr Hitchcock’s word, the whole film is one big McGuffin after the other.
There are moments of superb musical performances on the studio set, but to be honest, those are the only exciting moments in the entire film. The Coen brothers are not afraid to try something different and for that they should be commended. However, at the end of the day, people want to see movies that they can relate to or will cause them to be transcended across space and time to a world that’s interesting and different to their own. This movie does none of those things.
It is an unguided journey through 1950s Hollywoodland that is told to us in a language of inconsequential nonsense. There are moments of laughter and euphoria, particularly in the two minutes we are exposed to C.C Calhoun (Frances McDormand), but it only lasts for a few minutes until we are back to a dulled sense of entertainment.
If you want to watch George Clooney play an unlikable, unattractive and genuinely uncharacteristic character, then go for gold. If you want to see another one of the Coen brothers’ films because you are a fan of theirs, then go right ahead. Just don’t blame us when the only satisfaction you get is from the milk duds floating in a pool of butter in your popcorn.