Classic Review: Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Since I’ve started this site, I’ve written a lot of reviews. In case you missed some of my earlier ones, I would like to share an older review of “Hail, Caesar!” which originally appeared here.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a slick Hollywood fixer working for Capitol Pictures, is pressed into action when superstar actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped and held for ransom by a mysterious group of disgruntled Hollywood writers who call themselves “The Future” . Mannix races to quietly collect the ransom money without gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton) catching wind of the scandal.

I’ve been excited about this one for a long time and I’ve actually wrote about this film a few times here. This was my most anticipated film of 2016 and I’m (and the rest of us) are lucky that we get to see it in early February. For those who don’t know, the story is about a hollywood fixer in the 1950s named Eddie Mannix (Brolin) who is pressed into action when his studio’s, Capitol Pictures, star Baird Whitlock (Clooney) is kidnapped. Mannix must go about collecting ransom money without alerting gossip columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Swinton) of the potential scandal. What was fun about this was that it gave us a look at how films were made in the 1950s with Mannix going from set to set where different films were being made. The film just felt very meta with a series of films within a film, featuring a big-budget drama, a musical, a western, a romance, and some sort of aquatic film. They were all exciting and fun to watch and these long glimpses contained most of the film’s impressively large cast. Sometimes it was easy to forget this fact because I would have watched any of these sub-films. I do feel like this approach was just an excuse to get these actors involved. It was definitely fun to see the likes of Ralph Fiennes (Laurence Laurentz), Scarlett Johansson (DeeAnna Moran), Channing Tatum (Burt Gurney), and Jonah Hill (Joseph Silverman) just to name a few. These were definitely fun to see but I thought that they partially took away from the film’s main story. I felt the story lagged a little in the middle as it felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. What I found that also took away from the story is that it focused a little too much on Mannix himself, mentioning his personal life including his family life and a subplot involving a possible career change. I would have prefered if the focus shifted slightly away from Mannix and more on Whitlock as he just seemed to disappear from the screen for long stretches of time. I was also not a fan of the end of the film as I did not like how things were resolved. What did like the most about this film was the writing and the acting. I found the dialogue to be not only smart and witty but also funny. This just made the acting a lot better. Brolin was great here as Mannix, delivering the great dialogue. Clooney was fun and wacky but like I said before, I wanted to see more of him. The real highlight here was Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle, a traditionally Western film actor thrust into a more serious role in another film. What was funny about his scenes was how he just didn’t belong in this other, more serious film. I thought his comedic timing was great and his presence just took over the scenes he was in. Overall, I thought this was a good, smart film featuring an interesting look at 1950s cinema but I just found that the story could’ve been a little better as it felt overshadowed by everything else.

Score: 8/10

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