Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. 106 minutes long. Budget $22 million.
Love them or hate them, there's no denying that the Coen brothers make interesting films and there's always an air of excitement that heralds the arrival of a new one. Their films go from serious brooding modern classics like No Country to Old Men to strange, metaphysical reflections on the meaning of life, like A Serious Man to comedies like The Big Lebowski and crime capers like Fargo.
They have a passion for America of the 1930s, 50s and 60s and an obvious love of the great American movie studios of which this is their latest love letter.
The plot sees Josh Brolin's Eddie Mannix - studio head of Capital Pictures and fixer trying to resolve the mysterious kidnapping of the studio's star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) from the set of his latest film the religious epic Hail, Caesar. Whitlock has been abducted by a group of communist Hollywood script writers known as 'The Future', who use the kidnapping to indoctrinate Whitlock to communism. On top of all that, Mannix has a pregnant movie star to deal with, a dim-witted cowboy actor, a song and dance star, a disgruntled high-brow director, twin gossip column sisters, a wife and young daughter, a job offer from Lockheed and a genuine Soviet spy to deal with, all in one day. Plus he's trying to give up smoking and has a streak of Catholic guilt running through him wider than the Rio Grande.
The plot is almost redundant in this movie and rather than a cohesive whole this just feels like a series of skits strung together that all pay immaculate homage to the golden age of Hollywood. There are bits that'll make you laugh, some that'll make you smile but as a whole this is a rather disappointing miss-fire of a movie. It looks superb, the actors except Clooney who uses his 'I'm in a comedy, so I'd better mug' style of acting are great and the Coen's direction is peerless.
But the comedy feels far too high brow, you laugh and smile because of its cleverness, you get the allusions and the sophisticated nods and winks, but when you're sat in a cinema listening to the laughter it smacks of people laughing because it's expected of them at that time and not because it's actually laugh out loud funny and ultimately it's all rather dull.
It's funniest scene - the bit where cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) gets terribly miscast in a sophisticated romantic drama and fails to say 'Would that it were', is far better realised in the trailer where the punchline to the scene happens a minute later at the end of the trailer and not, as it is in the movie, a good half an hour or more later.
Despite all its good points this is a lackluster Coen Brother effort that looks and acts great but is sadly, ultimately revealed to be an empty, rather hollow experience.