Riggan (Michael Keaton) is an actor best known for the playing the role of Birdman in a major superhero series. Riggan tries to reignite his career by directing and starring in a Broadway play. However, to reinvent his career he must impress a hardnosed theatre critic whose review will decide the play's success. Meanwhile Riggan must battle with his own ego and family issues whilst attempting to rebuild his damaged career and shake off his Birdman history.
Alejandro González Iñárritu's black comedy Birdman is surely a front runner for the Best Picture of the year 2014. A satire on fame and fortune, Birdman is an expertly made film and a true technical accomplishment with its fluid and inventive camera work that makes the film so much more immersive and creates an impression that the film is docudrama. Using tracking shots and single takes the film is faultless in its visual appeal and Emmanuel Lubezki, who is undoubtedly one of the finest cinematographers in modern cinema, works well with the director to create a technically brilliant film.
The absolute brilliance of the technical aspects of the film make it so effortlessly watchable and immersive, and the performances of the ensemble cast are also exceptional. Michael Keaton is impressive in the central role playing a washed up movie star that wrestles with his crippling self doubt and his failure to escape his past role where he played The Birdman (a role which defines him as he is only known for that role) in series of billion dollar blockbusters as he attempts to reinvent himself as a serious actor.
Supporting him is the excellent Edward Norton who plays a egotistical method actor who demands to drink real alcohol and violently flips out if anyone were to change this. Both Norton and Keaton share their snappy dialogue brilliantly and the screen crackles electrically whether the pair are on the screen. The film is almost without any note worthy flaws, director Iñárritu keeps the pace flowing perfectly and the script is superb, but the drum beat score can feel obtrusive but only on the odd occasions.
Based on the Biblical story of Moses' (Christian Bale) rising up against the brutal Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton) as he sets 600,000 slaves free from the iron grip of Egypt.
Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings has been causing somewhat of a stir, but not for the reasons Scott's wish it did. Instead of receiving positive plaudits, rave reviews and Oscar nods Exodus has been hitting the headlines for apparent racism. The source of the complaint stems from the "whitewashing" of history where the main characters (Moses for instance) are played by white men whilst the slaves are played by black or Middle Eastern Men. Scott countered by claiming that casting a 'Mohammed such and such' in a lead role would not make the film a financial success, he has point but has expressed it like a monumental bellend.
Ridley Scott has always been a master of making aesthetically pleasing films, Scott depicts a futuristic metropolis with precision and imagination in Blade Runner, vast alien worlds in Prometheus and one of the greatest sieges shown on screen in Kingdom of Heaven but what is sometimes lacking is character as evident in Kingdom of Heaven and Prometheus. Exodus: Gods and Kings is very much the same, it features spectacular visuals but it is lacking in character.
Visually Exodus Gods and Kings is resplendent in its recreation of ancient Egypt, the river Nile looks glorious as it winds its way through the city of Memphis, the vast landscapes look daunting and the staggering pyramids make the landscape of Memphis a sight to behold. However, the characters are dwarfed by the staggering spectacle, Christian Bale's Moses is never fully convincing enough to be a man with the charisma to become a leader, whether that's down to the lack of depth in fleshing out the character of Moses or the lack of an effective performance from Christian Bale (he has certainly done better work than this) is up for debate. Joel Edgerton, however, is fun to watch as he plays the pantomime villian of the film.
The lack of characters makes for the more character driven first half to be a slog to sit through as the first half of film feels long, laboured and bloated. However, once the second half begins and the spectacle gets even more staggering and the seven plagues of Egypt strike the land the film becomes considerably more entertaining as Scott moves more within his comfort zone.