A new Coen Brothers production is always a joyous occasion for film-lovers. Even when they don’t quite hit the mark, their work is still worth spending two hours in a cinema for.
Hail, Caesar! is set in Hollywood in 1951. Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, works for a major studio as a fixer. When top star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped from the set of a high-budget, Jesus-drama, he has to sort out the mess. This plot is pure McGuffin, allowing for the Coens to pay homage to, and gently parody, some of the standard movie genres of the time. They also manage to tie in other, contemporary issues such as the Hollywood Ten, gossip columnists and even the H-bombing of Bikini Atoll.
Joining Brolin and Clooney are Alden Ehrenreich – hilarious as Hobie Doyle, the cowboy actor/singer -and the always wonderful Tilda Swinton as twin sisters, Thora and Thessaly Thacker. Frances McDormand gets a comedy cameo as chain-smoking CC Calhoun, film editor, and Ralph Fiennes shows his under-used comedy skills as director Laurence Laurentz. Channing Tatum and Scarlett Johansson round out this stellar cast.
This is slick, sharp, intelligent comedy, which is what the Coen Brothers do better than anyone. It is also a great movie for anyone who enjoys the Golden Age of Hollywood, full as it is, of references and reproductions. The sailors-in-bar-Gene-Kelly style scene is both choreographically and comedically brilliant.
If you have not been initiated into the Coen Brothers, then this is a good starting point. If you’re already a fan, you’d have to be a Grinch to be disappointed.
Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Rating out of 10: 8
Hail Caesar will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on 30 June 2016.
This review was originally published on 26 February 2016 for the cinema release.