A big movie star in 50s Hollywood (George Clooney) gets kidnapped by a mysterious group. We follow the studio’s ‘fixer’ Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he balances his busy job with trying to get to the bottom of the abduction.
The Coen’s latest spans many genres and in this sense it’s perhaps their most ambitious work to date. It’s got elements of noir, comedy, musicals & drama all set against a slightly-exaggerated 50s Los Angeles. In terms of their own films you might say it’s The Hudsucker Proxy meets Burn After Reading.
Perhaps this is too much for one film. There are structural problems with Hail, Caesar! caused by the many plot lines and ideas at play, and it does often leave you wanting more.
However, the way they spin a compelling tale then completely sideline it is charming. It feels like a blunderbuss approach at first, they want to try their hand at everything, but the film is held together by Brolin’s character and out of the chaos comes some sense of order.
Chaos is probably the best word to use. Mannix has to juggle his personal life, vain movie stars, angry directors, PR issues, script content and of course a kidnapping. We are privy to it all. He is largely the centre of attention, but the focus shifts away from him for disarmingly long periods of time, at one point easing into a whole musical and tap dancing number.
Somehow, it all comes together beautifully. Hail, Caesar! is another winner from the Coens, proving you don’t have to be stupid to be funny or glum to be profound.