Hail, Caesar! Blu-ray Review
The Golden Age of Hollywood was a certain time in the industry’s history when all was wholesome and there were none of those horrific scandals that there are today. Except, of course, it wasn’t. Many of the stories were just kept out of the headlines thanks to “fixers.”
Capitol Pictures’ chief fixer is Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin, in his third film with the Coen Bros.). On any given night, he’ll be tasked to bail a big-name Hollywood star out of controversy, giving them fake names if they get picked up by the cops and the like. One particular day in 1951 is about to really put Mannix to work.
In the middle of production on the studio’s “prestige picture” for 1951, Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ, its star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney, who has proven a wonderful addition to the Coen Bros.’ comedies, this being his fourth), is poisoned and kidnapped, a $100,000 ransom on his head by a band of Communists. Also on the lot—and in the mix—are a cowboy star named Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE) who is forced to branch out of his stereotype, a European director (Ralph Fiennes, Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL) tasked to get a passable performance out of Doyle, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson, in her first teaming with the directors since 2001’s THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE), a one-dimensional actress who becomes pregnant while shooting her latest “swimming picture” and twin gossip columnists who will out anyone for a story (Tilda Swinton, her second Coen collaboration, after 2008’s BURN AFTER READING).
There’s a bit going on here, but it’s all relatively simple. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it will all be rewarding. HAIL, CAESAR! pulls off the difficult task of simultaneously being a spoof (Clooney clearly takes cues from Charlton Heston early on) and a dedication (no allusion seems to be malicious)—but it’s far from a wide crowd that will really appreciate this. HAIL, CAESAR! is, like many Coen Bros. films, not meant for everyone. Those that love 1950s American cinema and have exposed themselves to the history and inner-workings (the handsome actor being escorted by the gorgeous starlet at the big premiere?—yeah, they may have never met before that night) will have a stronger affection for HAIL, CAESAR! than those who don’t and haven’t. Far too many gags and nods will be lost and the essence of the film will go wholly unnoticed.
Still, the story is filled with such colorful characters, peculiar conflicts and familiar faces that even those who don’t know Hedda Hopper from a leaky faucet should still get something out of the movie—particularly if they are fond of Joel and Ethan’s brand of humor.
HAIL, CAESAR! may be one of the Coen Bros.’ “lesser” (read: no way will it get any Oscar nominations) works and it may be one of their most alienating, but it stands as one of their more entertaining and fun efforts. And after INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS, TRUE GRIT and A SERIOUS MAN, this sort of picture is much welcome.
Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This high-definition transfer offers vivid details, fine textures and healthy colors, lending to the tone of the film.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1; French DTS Digital Surround 5.1; English DVS 2.0. Subtitles in English, Spanish and French. Dialogue is clean, sound effects come through naturally and the music plays nicely.
Directing Hollywood (4:11): George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton and more discuss working with the Coen Bros.
The Stars Align (11:34) looks at the characters and cast of HAIL, CAESAR!
An Era of Glamour (6:22) puts the spotlight on the production design and costumes.
Magic of a Bygone Era (6:01): This featurette looks at how HAIL, CAESAR! pays homage to 1950s cinema.