Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – 2015

birdman-movie-poster-1Film theatres that offer sneak previews deserve to be mentioned and applauded, especially on an occasion such as this. Much to my dolefulness, the highly anticipated “Birdman” was not set to be released until 2015.
Thankfully, whilst in Edinburgh, luck strikes as I locate a nearby theatre that is showing 
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest picture and I am able to see it well before my girlfriend and I expected. “How did we end up here?”
“Birdman”, starring Michael Keaton in career-best form, is not only one of the most ambitious, creative and unique pictures I’ve seen, it is a near-perfect triumph that reinvigorates hope and faith in modern cinema. 

“Birdman” is about Keaton’s Riggan Thomson; a former star actor, famous for once playing the popular Birdman movie character in an ultra-successful trilogy of epics. Thomson now finds himself on the outer as far as relevance is concerned, and as a way of re-entering the public eye, he writes, produces, directs and stars in a Broadway play.
As farfetched and bizarre as the synopsis sounds, it’s arguably “Birdman’s” most straightforward element.
As Murphy’s law comes into full fruition and chaos and catastrophe ensue, Riggan must learn to keep his impossible cast in order, prove himself as a loving father and eliminate his former-self from within his subconscious; a difficult task to say the least.
Furthermore, the thematic focus on art, criticism, popularity, duality, the media, obsolescence, alcoholism, rehabilitation and pride all play major roles within the narrative, making for a tantalising viewing experience. 

birdman-levitationNot only are the cast at their very best, the writing behind “Birdman” is astoundingly good. The casualness and believability of not only the delivery of the lines but the dialogue itself makes the film what it is.
Time after time you forget that what you are witnessing is standard Hollywood practice in a way, however at the same time, it’s so different to anything that’s out there in this modern ‘Blockbuster’ era. I think that is what is best about the script; it addresses countless issues with the industry today. Things like sequels, green-screen explosion epics, mindlessness and existing through an electronic online social media account are dealt with so cleverly as to not outright offend, but satirise, pull focus and indicate an era.
For a film that at it’s core is about one man’s desire to eliminate his former image, “Birdman” succeeds admirably in saying a lot about a lot of things; this film makes you think!

As said before, I can’t remember the last time I saw Michael Keaton like this. His performance as Thomson may very well be his best ever; and I for one could not think of a better suiting actor for the part. Thoroughly deserving of Oscar glory, Keaton delivers a masterful performance that must be witnessed! He plays the comic, the aggressor, the tragic and the romantic without fault and it’s excellent to see.
Irony must have been a big factor in the casting period as there are links between Keaton’s former iconic image as Batman back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

_AF_6405.CR2The same could be said for Edward Norton and his character of Mike Shiner; a detestable, self-obsessed method actor who is played to a tee. Rumours have floated around regarding Norton’s difficult attitude on-set, and on several occasions, you’re left unsure as to whether he is playing himself or satirical incarnation of the general public’s perception of him.
Either way, Norton is once again outstanding. 

The score for “Birdman” consists of a singular improvisational drum kit, reminiscent of an on-the-cusp Jazz concoction. Not only is the minimalistic instrumental element a perfect accompaniment for the strange onscreen antics, it sets the mood and tone to perfection.
On many occasions we actually see someone playing the drums, as to provide a ‘live’ soundtrack of sorts to the film that already appears increasingly realistic.
This is one of many creative techniques utilised within the film that make it fantastically unique.

The most notable technique in the production of “Birdman” is the continuous shot illusion. Director Iñárritu, through precise direction, flawless editing and a well choreographed cast, has managed to make the majority of the film feel like a continuous take. The hidden edits and transitions are perfect for tricking the audience into feeling as ‘in the moment’ as possible.

Birdman-1The ‘one-take’ phenomenon has been around for decades, but to see it make up a modern release such as this in the style it does is something truly special.
On many occasion the camera examines an entire room, making you wonder exactly where the director, production team and camera itself actually are. Like “Black Swan” so effortlessly achieved back in 2010, the mirror shot from dead in front is achieved with great success through incredible post-production, adding to the realism of the experience even more. 

If I had had seen “Birdman” earlier, it would have polled very high on my ‘Top 10 list of 2014’. But with the wide release date coming in 2015, it’ll have to wait a little longer.
For a picture that took only 30 days to film, “Birdman” impresses endlessly and surpasses several of the releases seen in 2014. It was my most anticipated film for the remainder of the filmic calendar in 2014, and it failed on every account to disappoint.
“Birdman” is what movies are all about. Having fun, sending a message, being creative and telling a story. A truly unique picture, “Birdman” has something for everyone, even if it is a simple bird screech.
It’s one of the best films of the year and is a must-see! 

5/5

4 comments on “Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – 2015

  1. Noémie
    January 6, 2015

    One of the most anticipated movie of the last few months and…a bit disapointed. Lot of great things here, I agree.

    Although, the end is too long, and now I know that I have a problem with Emma Stone: I finally realised that I actually don’t like her.

    But there is something else, missing, or at least not perfect and I can’t excactly say what, and that’s annoying!

    Ideally I would give a 3.75…but because it is something unusuall and quite refreshing to see, I decided on 4/5. The wide release of the movie was the 14th of November so it will be on my 2014 list but I’m not sure it will make it on the top 10…

    I still haven’t seen Biutiful, and Birdman is definitely better than Babel (which was such a disapointment) but Amores Perros stays my favourite Inarritu’s movie followed by 21 grams.

  2. wmsteele
    January 7, 2015

    Interesting and quite disappointing to read, except the Emma Stone thing!
    I’m the same! I liked her in Zombieland, I haven’t seen The Help, but yeah, not a big fan.
    It’s funny for me, because before 2015 began, I saw Birdman and Annie only two days later. I said to Alise that I may have see the best and worst of 2015 before the year even started!😛

    Gotta watch Inarritu’s others. I heard Babel was good :O

  3. Noémie
    January 7, 2015

    Well I gave a 3.5 for Babel so it’s not a bad movie. But if you compare with his 2 previous movies, yes it is a big disappointment.

    • wmsteele
      January 7, 2015

      Ah okay, well I was very impressed with Birdman and Im keen to check out his other works as a result 👍

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