Hail, Caesar! sees the formidable Coen Brothers recruit an all-star cast to satirise and homage the classic Hollywood studio system.
From Fargo to The Big Lebowski and No Country For Old Men, few directors can claim to have as much range and long-lasting success as Joel and Ethan Cohen.
For their latest effort, the Coens have left behind the morose introspection of their last few movies (Inside Llewyn Davis, True Grit) and transitioned back into goofball comedy territory.
Hail, Caesar! sees the Coens at their most irreverent and freewheeling - set in the 1950's, it sees a rugged studio fixer, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), struggle to keep production on Capitol Pictures' headline film, Hail, Caesar!, moving forward when its headline actor, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped. Meanwhile, smaller conflicts threaten to derail several other pictures - Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), a cowboy film star, can't wrap his mouth the wordy dialogue in Laurence Laurentz's (Ralph Fiennes) serious drama picture whilst DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is faced with a serious image crisis.
Hail, Caesar! is a bonafide love letter to classic Hollywood; the Coen's love and passion for cinema is etched into every frame and line of dialogue. The characters are loveable and colourful caricatures that we feel familiar with in just a matter of moments. Everyone except Mannix doesn't possess a lot of depth, but they do deliver a solid stream of gags through smart writing and cartwheeling subplots.
Not all of these tangental arms work though; Scarlett Johansson's arc adds little to the overall narrative whilst Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand are essentially glorified cameos. There are more than a couple of scenes that felt lacking in direction or purpose, but on the whole this disjointed nature adds to the subversive wackiness of the whole film.
Brolin and Ehrenreich are the two standout performers here, mostly because their characters have the most depth. Brolin's brusque fixer suits him down to the ground as he whips everyone into shape. Meanwhile, Ehrenreich is a revelation as the dim-witted but loveable Western icon, Hobie Doyle. His comedic chops come to the fore and really makes you sit up and take notice of him.
Clooney is also great as the A-lister who is snatched from set, reprising his goofy, self-depreciating slapstick persona from past Coen Brothers comedies like O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The film probably isn't for everyone - there were at least one or two walkouts during my screening, which is a damn shame - but it's pure Coen Brothers silliness through and through.
The Verdict: 7/10
It's disjointed, messy and poorly paced, but Hail, Caesar! sees the Coens doing what they love and brining a troop of talented actors along for the ride. Brolin and Ehrenreich elevate an otherwise cartoonish cast of big names.