Hail, Caesar!

Film, Comedy
4 out of 5 stars
2 out of 5 stars
(19user reviews)
Hail, Caesar!

The Coen brothers re-unite with George Clooney and haul in an all-star cast for this typically leftfield comedy set in early-1950s Hollywood

It couldn’t have been easy for the Coen brothers to just be silly again, especially after such recent soulful triumphs like ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (2013) and ‘A Serious Man’ (2009) – both of which followed their big Oscar win for the dark, brooding ‘No Country for Old Men’. But you’ve got to love Joel and Ethan Coen for insisting on being playful: their new movie ‘Hail, Caesar!’ weds the backstage Hollywood shenanigans of their 1991 gem ‘Barton Fink’ to a more manic pace. It doesn’t exactly feel new for them. Yet, as super-polished, mannered and slightly surreal comedies go, it feels as rare as a unicorn.

As ever with these siblings, it’s the details that win us over. ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is set within the unusually rich seam of transitional early-1950s showbiz, a moment when swimming sirens (Scarlett Johansson) and singing cowboys (Alden Ehrenreich, deceptively sharp under his ten-gallon hat) rubbed elbows with finicky European directors (Ralph Fiennes, extending his sublime comic run from ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’) and secret Communist ‘study groups’. At the top of the food chain is Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a Kirk Douglas-like A-lister who’s been drugged and smuggled off the lot of his epic Roman picture. Enter Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the studio’s fixer, worried about the fallout.

The plot never runs out of steam. But you’ll soon see the story as a handy excuse for dazzling bits of business: a strand of spaghetti turned into a lasso; an excruciatingly funny piece of on-set dialogue direction (some cowboys will never become urbane smoothies); and Channing Tatum in a screwy-sailor dance number that plays like a reason to make the film. Purring over it all is that great wizard Michael Gambon, whose stuffy, orotund narration supplies a self-mockery that’s our cue not to take any of this very seriously. Is Josh Brolin’s Mannix, occasionally seen in a church confession box, actually in pursuit of something higher than all this? Don’t be fooled by the backdrop. 

By: Joshua Rothkopf

Posted:

Release details

Release date:
Friday March 4 2016
Duration:
106 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenwriter:
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cast:
Channing Tatum
Scarlett Johansson
Tilda Swinton
Ralph Fiennes
George Clooney
Josh Brolin
Frances McDormand

Average User Rating

2.4 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:6
  • 2 star:8
  • 1 star:3
LiveReviews|19
1 person listening
Tastemaker

Coen brothers movies are a bit hit and miss for me. While The Big Lebowski is one of my favourite movies of all time thanks to its multiple layers of comedy that are only discovered on repeat viewing. Hail, Caesar is a movie I might not watch again which means I could be missing out on many subtleties. They lost me with the movie's slow pace that make it feel like it was actually a movie from the 50s and not a movie about the very same industry during that era. Despite a stellar cast, it just wasn't very funny. The only funny scene was Ralph Fiennes trying to get one of his actors to say a line which he couldn't get to grips with. Give this a miss unless you still swoon at George's looks - and Channing Tatum is also in there dressed as a sailor which might also raise some pulses!

Tastemaker

Truly amazing cast but it's missing some backbone...

I can understand what they were trying to achieve with the storyline but unfortunately they failed completely.

It's not funny, it's slow and at times I nearly fell asleep.


Try watching something else or wait for it to appear in Netflix...

Tastemaker

I'm usually a fan of the Coen brothers, but this was such a let down.  I found the movie slow, with more characters than storyline.  Literally only one scene that I found even remotely funny.  Save yourself the time and rewatch one of your favourite movies - thank me later!

Tastemaker

A fun farce from the Coen Brothers that cheekily winks at the froth and ego of Hollywood - but fails to offer much more of a satirical edge than that. It has less laughs than Burn After Reading - but crucially it still has laughs (and a kidnapping - well it is a Coen Brothers film!) 


George Clooney is at his goofy best as wide-eyed buffoon Baird Whitlock, the lead role in the titular on-set film and pouting Channing Tatum is clearing enjoying his role as diva Burt. You really feel for Josh Brolin's Eddy Mannix, the studio's go to guy for quick fixes, as he marches through the chaos trying to patch it up as it slowly implodes. With kidnapping Communists, big, brash musical numbers, and more scene changes than George Clooney has admirers I too felt a little overwhelmed. On the strength of this the Coen Brothers appear to do cold, dark thrillers better than they do comedies but Hail, Ceasar! is still an enjoyable, if frenzied, way to pass the time before they make something more substantial.  

Tastemaker

Lots of fun scenes, but not much more than that; what is rather disappointing for a Coen Brothers’ film.

The film works as an Old Hollywood homage, but lacks in the narrative. There are too many stories – without a foreseeable reason to be there – happening all at once and not really complementing each other. The ‘filming’ scenes are usually more interesting, despite the fact that they are just playful nostalgic tributes to film styles that don’t exist anymore.
The slapstick acting wouldn’t feel so forced if there was proper plot to be satirized but here, for no reason, it seems it’s trying to remind you that it’s not taking itself seriously – you don’t need that reminder.
Even if it seems a good excuse to put so many famous actors together, it’s still the Coens’ weakest films.

Tastemaker

I really enjoyed this movie, the colors were crazy and bright and some of the scenes were so absurd that they just had to make sense. It felt a bit like one of those "Love Actually" style films where there are a bunch of characters who's names you wont remember but the underlying thread that connects them all is the movie lot. Overall it was a littl bit tooo many celebs for my liking and not enough newbies, so instead of actually believing they are their characters it felt they most of them were playing themselves in the 1950's. I'd probably see it again, but just because its the Coen Brothers and there isn't any depressing under tone to the film. I wouldn't watch it again for the thin story line. 

tastemaker

I just love the Coen Brothers, & couldn't wait to see this. What a let down - especially as the trailer is a near masterpiece. 

The best scene in the film is the one where Ralph Fiennes directs the cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) - but don't bother going to see the film for that as you can see the full scene in the trailer.

The film is full of very short cameos, most of which are pointless (e.g. Jonah Hill).


I am trying not to be too negative but it's difficult. It's almost fun - but not funny If only they could have added some acid wit  / or even a spot of satire.


Tastemaker

I walked out of the cinema after watching Hail Caesar thinking i'd just experienced some kind of weird acid trip on the screen. Trying to explain the plot is like trying to recant a strange dream - with a twist that sees Clooney kidnapped and held at ransom by a group of communist writers (including Frank Pickle from Vicar of Dibley) the plot is difficult to follow. At one point Channing Tatum (after performing a semi-decent tap number) is exposed as the ring leader of these Hollywood based commies and he escapes on a submarine with his little dog. Meanwhile Ralph Fiennes is a film director at his wits end and Scarlette Johannsen is a trampy 50's starlette - both taking their own random, pointless tangent in the film.

With all the great films currently making their way to the silver screen, i'd put your money towards one of those and give this one a very wide berth.

Tastemaker

Scrappy and self-indulgent, picks up as it goes along but don't expect a satisfying or complete watch.  The movie set-pieces are stunning - the Gene Kelly-esque musical number "No Dames" (with Channing Tatum tap-dancing away admirably) in particular is a total delight and easily as good as anything from the best 50s musicals - but the rest of the film feels like an excuse to film these short love-letters to classic Hollywood.  Not a great film by Coen Brothers standards, it left me wanting them to go all out and film a modern day Vincente Minnelli style musical - please!

Tastemaker

I enjoyed the whole film, especially the atmosphere from Hollywood at the '50s and the truly good performances of the all-star cast. I haven't watched any Cohen movies before so not particularly a fan of them but honestly, if you understood what happened and what was the point of that movie, please let me know!! For sure it was hilarious.


I can sympathise with many of the negative sentiments directed at the Coen Brothers' latest offering, however there are also enough truly stunning set pieces to warrant praise in equal measure. Like many here, Channing Tatum's sailor scene rivals anything from the golden age of cinema, and it's just a shame the rest of the film falls flat in comparison. It's also another example of a Coens film that ends abruptly, and feels more like a showreel for their talents, than a satisfy feature. A missed opportunity overall.

Tastemaker

Contrary to what most are saying about this film, I could have kept watching it for another hour easily. Perhaps it's because of the showbiz angle? This felt familiar to me having worked in a similar industry - but I went with friends who work across government, banking and news media and they all enjoyed it too. Perhaps the key is to not take it too seriously? But though it could be viewed as a series of short, fun, film pitches - Channing Tatum's happy sailor tap-dancing routine was a favourite - wrapped up in the larger narrative of a movie star being kidnapped, its so beautifully put together, well-performed, tightly-scripted and deliberating making fun of itself that it works. Unlike some star-peppered casts, I really felt each character brought a strong game. George Clooney playing a goofy, stereotypically dumb but loveable Hollywood star; Scarlet Johansson combining her usual beautiful self with a delightful tough Jersey girl core;  Alden Ehrenreich as a slow-talking but surprisingly sharp and charming, boyish cowboy. Josh Brolin is the real star of the show, casting shades of Mad Men's Roger Sterling in the '50s Hollywood film industry. Don't be fooled by the humour and the wacky storyline, there's also sneakily an underlying message that you'll either get or you won't - and it's not about Communism or Hollywood.

Tastemaker

Save yourself 109 minutes, and £13. It really wasn't a great film, except one or two scenes!


If you are still planning on seeing this movie (even after reading other viewers reviews) you should definitely do some research before seeing it; there are many inside Hollywood jokes that I found very difficult to understand because I was completely unaware of Hollywood's history. Apart from that, there are some really great scenes with Scarlett Johansen and Channing Tatum that were very impressive.

Tastemaker

I had been so excited to see this film. I went with really high expectations and was sadly disappointed. I think it is a cinematic feat of direction - because it mixes so many different genres so flawlessly. However for me it was the sort of film that really turns me off. The combo of satire, in jokes and homage are probably the absolutely worst combo for me. I am a massive Clooney fan and he only just about made this bearable.


Tastemaker

I’ve often thought I was born in the wrong era. When asked what time period I’d like to have lived in, ‘1950’s Hollywood and the Golden Age of Musicals’ bursts forth from me with all the starry-eyed, bouncing-puppy excitement of a young Debbie Reynolds. What this means is that I was very excited about seeing ‘Hail Caesar!’ the latest offering from Joel & Ethan Coen and a film whose trailer was one of the best cut I’ve ever seen. What it also means is that I was sadly disappointed and excessively underwhelmed by some of the messiest, dullest & most confused cinema I’ve seen in a long time.


Josh Brolin is not a dynamic leading man. Don’t get me wrong, he’s done very well for himself since his bandana-wearing days as the oldest Goonie and if what you want is solid & dependable, then he’s your man but in my opinion, he’s just not got what it takes to open a film or carry it throughout its entirety. That’s a role that usually belongs to George Clooney. But not in this film. Clooney’s scenes for the most part are dull with the dialogue leaden, the humour patchy & the confused facial expression grating after a while. His final speech is entertaining but that’s as much to do with some clever editing and decent reaction shots from the extras as anything else.


Tilda Swinton is fabulously dressed but shrill in both her incarnations, Scarlett Johansson is wasted in a storyline that shows us what a great ‘fixer’ Brolin’s Eddie Mannix is but does little else and if you go looking forward to seeing Jonah Hill, one of the poster’s featured faces, well, don’t blink is the only advice I can give.


The film does have a few shining beacons bobbing along in its sea of bewilderment; Alden Ehrenreich is absolutely fantastic & incredibly watchable as perennial sharp shootin’ cowboy & all round good guy Hobie Doyle and his scene with making-it-look-easy Ralph Fiennes is genuinely crying-with-laughter hilarious. Channing Tatum’s much publicised tap number is lovely although linked to the main storyline by a gossamer thread and everything & everyone looks wonderful with all the glorious costumes you’d expect from a period film located on the sound stages, back-lots and streets of Los Angeles.


Sadly these weren’t enough to keep me entertained for 100 minutes that felt like twice that and not in a good way; that it’s a love letter to a bygone era of Tinseltown is clear and for that intention, I applaud the Coens…I just couldn’t get on board with the snoozy delivery and what felt like a massively wasted opportunity for all involved.



It doesn't live up to the expectations raised by the trailer. There are some funny moments, but George Clooney is not generally in them which is a problem if he is the star. The cast are comically good though especially Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes but the narrative feels episodic and disjointed.  The film ending is non-existant. I would not recommend forking out to see this in the cinema.

Tastemaker

I am usually a fan of most of the Coen brothers' work and love their humor. In the past, I have seen movies at the cinema with friends and was often the only one to have liked the movie. Having said that, it wasn't the same story with Hail, Caesar unfortunately. 

The story is quite funny in principle. It follows real-life "fixer" Eddie Mannix working in Hollywood in the 1950s, trying to discover what happened to a cast member who vanishes during filming. The film boasts a number of high profile stars (George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum) who all have their own plot going on in the film (which can be really exciting and great!) but none of them was really seen through. None of the story lines really ended in a satisfactory way, some were confusing, some were boring, some were just dropped...

There were many moments when I knew I was supposed to laugh but just didn't find the joke very funny - maybe it will be different for other viewers.

In terms of cinematography, I do think there are some beautiful scenes, but that's all I really got from it.


Hail Caesar skillfully set up the main religious lines that are put forth in the dying minutes of the movie when Caesar approaches Christ on the cross and the words should be set into stone...packaged within levels of the reality of Hollywood, communism, and a director who lives to make a positive+difference in this world....