Cary, NC — Hail, Caesar! is the latest comedic farce from the Coen Brothers (O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski) and reunites the filmmakers with stars George Clooney, Josh Brolin and Scarlett Johansson. Channing Tatum, Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton are also thrown in for good measure.
A loving satire of Hollywood in the 1950s, the film’s plot, involving kidnapping Communism, doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny but is really more of an excuse for the filmmakers, their stars and their audience to have a good time.
No Plot But Hilarious Cast
As I just mentioned, the plot doesn’t really add up to much, but the Coens are masters of atmosphere and tone, and the film kicks off with Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men), a studio executive, confessing his sins of smoking cigarettes behind his wife’s back and other similarly minute things that even the priest admits that he comes to confession far too often.
It’s a low-key scene that’s played very silly yet completely straight at the same time. It’s a great set up for the rest of the film, and it’s a true delight to watch such a great cast have at it.
First there is Clooney, who is in his fourth outing with these filmmaking brothers. Here, he plays a Charlton Heston-like actor in the middile of filming a Ben-Hur-like epic. Clooney has never shied away from his goofy side, and I think he has some of the best comedic reactions out there. His character is kidnapped off-set by a group of Communists hoping to get a ransom for his reward, and Clooney’s face when he’s first introduced to his captors and told what they represent is just golden.
Josh Brolin gets most of the screentime here, and he too is a vastly underrated comedic actor. He’s playing exasperated almost all the way through until a confrontation with Clooney, where he finally has to set everything straight. It’s a great scene, because Brolin is finally able to let out the intensity he is usually known for, and it makes for a great character moment.
Johansson, Fiennes, Swinton, Tatum and others like Jonah Hill and Francis McDormand only have brief moments in the film, but everyone makes the most of it. A scene in which Fiennes, who plays a director of high-class comedy, struggles to get a southern actor to lose his drawl is one for the ages.
Tatum Steals the Show with One Scene
Caesar’s best moment, however, comes with a full-on musical and dance number featuring Tatum. The Coens film it exactly as it would have been filmed in the 50s, and it’s wonderful. Obviously, Tatum excels here, and even though it’s only one of two scenes he’s in, he finds himself fitting nicely into the world of the Coens, mixing absurd comedy with dark undertones.
Funny, Absurd Film Worth Seeing
Hail, Caesar! is a very funny film. It’s low key and is really only held together by its cast and the odd yet hilarious situations the Coens put them in. If you can get behind that, and I most certainly did, then Hail, Caesar! is well worth seeing.