Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Alejandro G. Inarritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone
If any movie needed to be awarded for its technical wizardry then Birdman is that film. With its free flowing camerawork, masterful cinematography and sleight of hand editing, Inarritu’s film is the most cinematic work you’re likely to see all year. Despite its satirical story, set amidst the backstage of a Broadway production, Inarritu’s tale is pure cinema through and through; a technical masterclass and majestically realized story of an artist’s debilitating sanity in the pursuit of artistic relevance, featuring one of the finest central performances you’ll see all year.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson, a faded icon of the silver screen, attempting to reinvent his career after playing an iconic superhero in a trilogy of blockbuster films. It’s no surprise that Keaton and Riggan’s career trajectories are linked. Keaton knows the man he’s playing. Riggan’s creative comeback comes in the form of writing, directing and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, much to the chagrin of many Broadway theatre types. Keaton delivers a soaring performance, injecting Riggan with sadness and warmth as we witness his sanity gradually slip from his grasp.
Admittedly, Birdman’s satirical tale of warring actors and backstage romantic shenanigans is nothing new, but in the hands of a visionary such as Inarritu, and along with his fellow writers, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris Jr. and Armando Bo, the film is injected with a freshness and energy that is unrivalled.
The visuals are stunning. Emmanuel Lubezki’s beautiful camerawork allows the film to veer between reality and fantasy with seamless ability, aided by Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione’s breathtaking editing; it works perfectly in tandem with Keaton’s performance. Never once does the technical poetry on show outshine the writing or draw attention away from its characters.
So as Riggan soars over the streets of Manhattan, or as Manhattan explodes in a fiery ball of mayhem and carnage in a scene that could have been taken direct from The Avengers, we are right there with him, sharing Riggan’s deluded visions as his sanity slips from his grasp.
Keaton is no doubt one of the shoo-ins for awards contention this year. Meanwhile, Edward Norton delivers an award worthy performance himself as Mike Shiner, the megastar of the theatre who also happens to have an ego to match his talent, while Emma Stone reveals a new depth as Riggan’s tormented recovering addict daughter, Sam. In the end though, this is Keaton’s show.
What’s also wonderful is just how funny the film is. After bringing us down with sombre dramas such as Biutiful, 21 Grams and Amores Perros, Inarritu fashions a showbiz satire loaded with laugh out loud moments whilst simultaneously delivering a bewildering portrayal of one artist’s last ditch attempt to find meaning and importance in his life.
This is one that demands to be seen on the big screen.