"Possibly film of the year"
by remotegoat reviewer on 09/01/15

Take my advice and go see 'Birdman'. Maybe even watch it a second or a third time. Because, chances are, you’re not going to see a film like this again for a very long time. Sure, there will be other great films, other magnificent films that are essential viewing, but films like this don’t get made very often. So refreshing to see, in this age of cinema where everything is adapted or reimagined or sequelled, a film that is so utterly original.

On the surface, it isn’t too different from your standard independent dramedy – twenty years after playing an iconic superhero, washed-up actor Riggan Thomas is writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. It’s the last chance he has to rejuvenate his career, but everything around him is falling apart. His cast; his family; his sanity; it’s all going wrong. As opening night draws closer, RIggan teeters closer and closer to the edge.

You only need to scratch beneath that surface a tiny little bit to see that 'Birdman' is far from standard. Very ambitiously and very successfully, writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu edits the entire film as though it is one continuous shot. The camera tilts, swivels and slides along in one seamless motion, either chasing after its actors or panning across rooms and storeys. This is not just a technical achievement (a ridiculously big technical achievement, mind) but a creative one. Ensuring it was a success meant the cast essentially working through pages and pages of script, requiring the highest levels of concentration and acting finesse.

But don’t let all that fool you, this isn’t just some fancy party trick – the cinematography does more to enhance the hysteria seen backstage at a theatre production than any montage ever could, and the constant movement of the camera is reflective of the central character’s own ever-frenetic mind. Driven by fear, anxiety and pride, Riggan Thomas cannot stop. And the camera moves with him every step of the way.

As Riggan, Michael Keaton is simply superb. It’s ridiculous to think that it’s been four years since he last headlined a movie, and even longer since he got a role as meaty as this. To say he makes the most of the opportunity is beyond an understatement. This was a role made for him, and the metaphysical in-jokes (George Clooney’s chin is a lovely reference) only add to the nuances. Riggan Thomas is a man driven by the fear of losing everything, and Keaton expresses it all brilliantly. The sharp script obviously helps, but Keaton’s ability to emote just with his eyes, or a twitch, is beautiful to watch. Just like McConaughey, this could see the beginning of Ketaon’s resurgence. I sincerely hope so.

Everyone else pitches in too, though. Zach Galifianakis’ long-suffering producer; Naomi Watts’ insecure young actress; Andrea Riseborough’s frustrated girlfriend; Amy Ryan’s exhausted ex-wife; they’re all excellent in relatively small but significant roles. But of the supporting cast, Emma Stone and Edward Norton are a cut above. Norton is hilarious as the Broadway veteran, difficult to work with in his undying effort to find ‘truth’ on stage (mirroring Norton’s own storied behavioural issues). Emma Stone, too, is just incredible. It’s a character that starts off looking quite generic – young daughter out of rehab who doesn’t give a crap about anyone – but she comes into her own in a big way. Stealing every scene she’s in, including a fantastic final few seconds, Stone shows once again why she is one of the best actresses out there right now.

There are a lot of big movies coming out this year – your Stars Wars and your Marvels – but this is already a frontrunner for movie of the year. Technically and creatively, 'Birdman' is a cinematic triumph, and a brilliant way to start the year. If this is the calibre of cinema we have to look forward to, we’re in for a ride.

So please. Go and watch 'Birdman'. And then think about watching it again.

Other recent reviews of Birdman
Enthralling, a whole new genre by Sophie Ramischwili
Other recent reviews by remotegoat reviewer
Dead Sheep
YES. YES. YES. Simply Marvellous by remotegoat reviewer
A fascinating shift of focus by remotegoat reviewer
How d'you like your eggs? by remotegoat reviewer
Skin Deep
welcome to the new nostagia by remotegoat reviewer
A young woman's empowering journey by remotegoat reviewer