Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Birdman

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Birdman, a strange film in many ways. The way its shot, the way it seems to jump from psychological thriller to drama to comedy all within a minute, and in general – it’s strange. But that’s not to say strange is a bad thing.


Alejandro González Iñárritu has a fairly small back catalogue, so to score four Oscars, including Best Pictureand Best Director would have been surprising, had it not been for Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) to give it its full title, being pretty damn good. Shame there wasn’t an award for most pretentious film title.


What separates this film from others, isn’t the dark humour, or the brilliantly out-there story, it’s the way it was filmed. For pretty much the entire film, it seems as if it was all done in one take. Despite this illusion being due to editing, most takes were in excess of ten minutes, which is still impressive, and effective. Seeing this film as all one take lets us see into the mind of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) as he tries to revive his career on Broadway by producing and starring in an adaptation of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” after his portrayal of Birdman became stagnant. However, his mind is hindered by the ghost of his once beloved character – Birdman. See, strange.

Unfortunately, Riggan’s often laughable and always frightening hallucinations are few and far between, but when they do crop up, it’s unnerving as hell. I only wish it was further explored. Riggan himself is mysterious to the point of creepy as we often see him hovering in the air and exhibiting acts of telekinesis. But that creepiness gives way to sympathy and pity as those who surround him, those who he loves and who love him, are shunned by his anger and depression, and every single performance is sublime.

Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis all star in this all-star movie and give us every reason to love and hate them. Each characters seeps in, well, character, and even though the film has been heralded as Keaton’s finest hour (debatable, Beetlejuice anyone?), it’s difficult to ignore their relationships with each other. Every single one of them is tormented in some way, to the point where it borders on overkill. Flirtations flit back and forth between actors creating situations so volatile that it’s so difficult to watch, and that’s why the one-take approach worked so well.

When tensions reach fever pitch, we need to be calmed down, a calm among the storm, but Birdman doesn’t have that, not in the traditional sense. The pot is never taken off the heat, until eventually, and inevitably, it boils over. It takes us on a flight of every single emotion you could possibly want to feel in a film. We want all of these characters, all of which are flawed, be it drug addiction, narcissism, or just plain callousness, to come out of this film better than when we went in, but in a film portraying the brutality of the modern world, our investment is risky at best.


Michael Keaton is an icon of cinema, but it’s been a while since he’s shown why he deserves that respect. Well now he has. His performance is so good and convincing that it’s hard to see an actor rather than just an average Joe with demons. The desperation in his eyes glows dully, but Birdman brightens them and his horizons. Ladies and gentlemen - Michael Keaton is back.

Birdman soars above most films, and gets 4/5.

★★★★☆

Jonny Naylor


Birdman at CeX


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