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Hail Ceasar! – Movie Review

Fans of the Coen brothers are sure to have a good time with their latest offering, Hail Caesar!. The film tells the story of studio head, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) running an entire studio, while leading man, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) of its biggest budget feature has been kidnapped and held for ransom.

Release Date: February 5, 2016
Writer: Ethan & Joel Coen
Director: Ethan & Joel Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Alden Ehrenreich

Hail Caesar! follows a single day for Capital Pictures head, Eddie Mannix, who must juggle crisis after crisis while keeping the movie making machine rolling. First there is newcomer, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). Hobie is a naïve stuntman, who is being touted as the next up-and-coming star. After a series of successful singing cowboy movies, Doyle is being moved to dramatic roles. In the film’s funniest scene, Doyle’s heavy western accent is not working for director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes).

Actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is the studio’s swimming beauty and she finds herself pregnant out wedlock. Mannix must spin the story as to not become a tabloid scandal. He enlists the help of professional “person” Joseph Silverman (Jonah Hill). He also needs to deflect studio rumors from tabloid journalist Thora Thacker (Tilda Swinton) and her competitive identical sister, Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton).

The studio’s biggest problem is the abduction of its biggest star, Baird Whitlock. Whitlock is literally in the middle of filming a scene in Capital Pictures largest budget movie, “Hail Caesar!” He is kidnapped by two extras and being held ransom for $100,000. Mannix figures out who kidnapped his star, how to get him back and keep the news out of the tabloids.

The Coen brothers have managed to create an amusing film that is more or less a throwback to the movie studios of old. They produce a stunning water ballet scene featuring Scarlett Johansson, a whimsical song and dance routine with an amazing Channing Tatum and an old school Biblical epic with George Clooney.

The main problem with Hail Caesar! is that it’s being sold as a studio thriller. In actuality, the movie serves as a slice of life. That’s not to say that being a slife-of-life movie is bad. The movie is fun to watch, but the subplots are low stakes and the kipnapping story is not an exciting story. The Coen brothers have captured the whimsical world of the early studio days and that about it.

As the studio head, Josh Brolin is clearly the lead of the movie. He’s a likable studio head and his struggle to balances the craziness of the studio with his personal life is quite charming. There are a lot of big stars in this movie, but the real shining moment of the film is Alden Ehrenrich as Hobie Doyle. His portrayal as the young naïve actor, who wants to be a team player, is sweet and endearing. Where did this guy come from and can we see him in more movies?

If you are a fan of the Coen brothers, Hail Caesar is distinctly the work of the Coen Brothers in terms of tone and humor. But compared to their other film it’s definitely a light movie, missing a dark edge and violence.