PLOT: Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) wrestles with his titular superhero alter-ego whilst trying to relaunch his career through adapting, directing and starring in a play on Broadway.
>>Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman is an incredible and thrilling piece of filmmaking. Truly unique, It’s wonderfully acted and beautifully shot, with Michael Keaton delivering a powerful, heart-wrenching performance. It’s a work of art that can move you, produce those ‘how did they do that?’ moments and, crucially, make you laugh.
At its heart, Birdman is a tale of critics versus artists, of movies, of theatre, of family, of old age and of grappling with trying to find your true self and a reason to matter in modern life other than ‘going viral’. It tackles a lot. Birdman (acting as a satire on these topics whilst being the most meta thing ever to exist (Keaton, an actor most famous for playing a superhero and whose career has hit a slump in the years following, plays Thompson, an actor most famous for playing a superhero and whose career has hit a slump in the years following) hits the mark, every time, which really speaks volumes about Iñárritu’s achievements here. He’s successfully made a true original. But, thankfully it does so in a way that’s entirely un-pretentious (although you might have thought otherwise when the film’s full title of ‘Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)’ glares out at you as the film opens). And it’s very funny. Just wait for that Robert Downey Jr. gag.
Birdman stands out in every conceivable way. Technically, it’s a master class. You’ve probably already witnessed the hurricane of articles dedicated to its astounding tracking shots, manipulated in such a way in the edit to make the entire film appear like one really long, uninterrupted shot. And then there’s that soundtrack, which almost entirely consists of one really long (yup) drum solo (which even breaks the fourth wall at one point, with the drummer and his kit appearing on screen twice). It’s all mesmerising, and this black comedy visibly relishes every second of unbroken footage it has to give you.
Michael Keaton’s performance is a perfectly measured portrayal of a man struggling with his demons (literally, he’s tormented by the voice of Birdman) and his fears, which is not only endearing, but also fabulously entertaining. Support from (the always excellent) Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifinakis is outstanding, but the real standout is Edward Norton, who pulls out a career-best performance. Norton is so good, that, when his screen-time drops off in the final third, both you and the film itself really miss him. Despite the fact he plays a total arsehole.
Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is beautiful, and the whole production looks so cool. Right from those sleek opening credits to the psychedelic, dream-like sequences – it all looks stunning. It’s just so wonderfully staged.
But if there truly is one aspect of Birdman that stands above everything else in a film that just seems so perfect, it has to be its furious, unrelenting energy. This is a brilliant, bold, bonkers film that careens through its two hour run time without ever pausing for breath and that, at its core, is just so…fun. LUCAS FOTHERGILL.
Verdict: You. Must. See. Birdman. ★★★★★
(For those that are interested, the beautiful piece of orchestral music that is played throughout Birdman can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfsDVr2ufWo between 1:03 and 2:03. Why does something that sounds as incredible as this only last for one minute? It pains me. IT PAINS ME I TELL YOU. OH SHIT ON IT. FUCK.)