Whenever a film is released with the Coen Brothers name attached, the film will always have big expectations. Whilst their latest directorial effort, Hail Caesar, isn’t their greatest film it is an enjoyable look back at 1950s cinema. Boasting an impressive cast that includes Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum just to name a few, this is probably the best ensemble the Coens have ever assembled for a film.
The film focuses on Josh Brolin’s Character Eddie Mannix as it follows his day to day as head of physical production at Capital Pictures. After Baird Whitlock is kidnapped half way through production of the film Hail Caesar, Mannix is faced with having to pay a ransom to get him pack in order to finish the film on time.
The film is a sort of expose of the film industry during this period of time as the studio system was beginning to break down. Throughout the film whilst trying to solve the Whitlock problem, Mannix is met with the usual problems when leading a big production company. The film deals with his interactions with the head actors as he babysits the stars sorting out their problems so scandals don’t hit the press.
Hail Caesars biggest problem is its tries so hard to be a tribute to classic films from the 50s, that it forgets to be a great film on its own. The film is just passable despite its brilliant cast most of which are limited to just a few scenes in glorified cameos.
Brolin is serviceable as lead Eddie Mannix, yet unfortunately isn’t really given much to do except a few scenes where he ponders his future with the production company. His chemistry with other actors is the most interesting thing about this performance, particularly the scenes he shares with Tilda Swinton who plays twin journalist sisters looking for a scoop.
Aiden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of a leading western actor trying to cross into dramas is a particular stand out. His scenes with his director played by Ralph Fiennes are by far the funniest and steal the whole film. Ehrenreich comes across as a star in the making here. It will be interesting to see what he does next. Fiennes is also memorable in these scenes once again showing off his comedic chops.
George Clooney is also brilliant as Baird Whitlock. His scenes with his kidnappers are hilarious and you can tell Clooney is having a blast playing this confused and gullible character.
Whilst the film is full of interesting characters it fails to focus on any of them long enough to make it interesting, Channing Tatum in the film, whilst having a brilliant musical sequence during, is pushed to the background which makes the reveals in the third act really bizarre and out of left field.
Scarlett Johansson who plays leading actress DeeAnna Moran is whilst humorous, struggles to leave an impression with her few brief scenes. Whilst Jonah Hill turns up for one scene despite being all over the posters for the films suggesting he was in the film more.
Overstuffed with too many big names all fighting for screen time, Hail Caesar is watchable, and provides some moments of comedy, but fails to leave an impression in the long run. Mostly this film is disappointing considering the high standards you’d expect from the Coan Brothers.
By Simon Hanson