In 1951 Hollywood, Capital Pictures is making their biggest film to date, ‘Hail, Caesar!’, a Ben Hur style epic starring Hollywood’s biggest talent of the moment Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). When Baird goes missing from the set, the studio fixer and head of production Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) must get the studio’s star back, while at the same time keeping the studio running smoothly and scandal free.
Along for the mad cap journey is a stellar, ensemble cast that make up the studio’s long list of stars that Mannix has to manage. Brolin’s character is loosely based on a real Hollywood fixer and studio executive of the same name, this incarnation of Mannix is seen a devout catholic and family man that helps his stars out of awkward, somewhat dated, moral binds; whereas the real Mannix helped cover up some of Hollywood’s most heinous secrets.
The ensemble cast all play their respective parts pitch-perfectly, and you can tell they had a lot of fun doing it. With Roger Deakins behind the camera, the Coen brothers have created another beautiful looking film that manages to capture the classic charm of the golden Hollywood era while at the same time poking fun at the popular genres of the time.
These classic film throwbacks are the best parts of the film, and from the Esther Williams-styled Aqua musical star played by Scarlett Johansson to the extremely pompous British period director played by Ralph Fiennes, and the Roy Rogers-like singing acrobatic cowboy played by Alden Ehrenreich, all of these are spoofed perfectly. Especially Ehrenreich is absolutely brilliant and with his role as the good-hearted cowboy Hobie Doyle he is the breakout star of the film, holding his own in a hilarious scene with Ralph Fiennes.
The biggest highlight, and quite possibly the most perfect five minutes of cinema this year, has to be Channing Tatum’s Gene Kelly-inspired singing and dancing sailor musical. Every part of this is a perfect replication and mash up of ‘Anchors Away’ and ‘On the Town’, or any of those old musicals you flick onto on a Saturday afternoon when flicking TV channels.
‘Hail Caesar’ is likely to be one of the funniest films of the year but it is easy to see it will not be everyone’s cup of tea. On the back of ‘Trumbo‘ it makes light of the Hollywood Ten and the now considered absurdities that communist sympathizing screenwriters were putting communist and socialist themes into their films to influence the American ideals. Here they openly admit to it, even taking the idea of Red communists in Hollywood to another depth.
But anyone that loves the Golden Hollywood era films or at least watched enough old films to get most the jokes, will love the lark that is ‘Hail, Caesar!’