Hail, Caesar!

 (2,182)6.31 h 46 min2016X-RayPG-13
HD. A harried 1950s movie studio 'fixer' deals with several crises over the course of one day--including a kidnapped star.
Directors
Joel CoenEthan Coen
Starring
Josh BrolinGeorge ClooneyAlden Ehrenreich
Genres
SuspenseComedyDramaMusic Videos and Concerts
Subtitles
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Ralph FiennesJonah HillScarlett JohanssonFrances McDormandTilda SwintonChanning Tatum
Producers
Tim BevanEric FellnerJoel CoenEthan Coen
Studio
Universal Pictures
Rating
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Purchase rights
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Format
Prime Video (streaming online video)
Devices
Available to watch on supported devices

Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

2182 global ratings

  1. 50% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 16% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 13% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 8% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 12% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

JohnReviewed in the United States on July 8, 2016
4.0 out of 5 starsExpertly Lampoons and Skewers Hollywood's Golden Age Studio System
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Not a normal comedy, not at least how many in North America would define comedy. It's a spoof, a lampoon of Hollywood's Golden Age. This was the era in which the large studios controlled everything. They had the producers, directors and actors all under contract, and they also owned nearly all the theaters in large chains. This iron grip on the industry started to be broken in 1948 with the landmark SCOTUS anti-trust decision that forced the studios to divest themselves of their theater chain ownerships. This, coupled with the rise of TV from then into the early 1950's, caused a significant slump in theater ticket sales that lasted until Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" in 1972 and Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" in 1974. The rise of free agent actors not under iron-clad studio contract, with independent directors and producers did not rise until the latter 1950's.

Hollywood responded during the mid-1950's while they still had contractual control over producers, directors and actors, by creating epic spectacles and innovating with wide-screen formats that could not be done on TV. That's the environment in which we enter the Coen Bro's film, "Hail, Caeser!", this interim period in which Hollywood was trying to find itself after losing the theater chains and competing with television. Like Francois Truffaut's 1973 "Day for Night" which portrays the trials and tribulations of a director attempting to create a movie, the Coen Bro's move up the food chain in the remnants of the studio system to the head of film production for a fictitious major Hollywood studio, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin). He's a "fix-it" man that keeps production going by removing the barriers and obstacles impeding the producers and directors working for him. This includes finding ways to sooth the ruffled feathers of prima dona actors, keep scandals out of the tabloids and gossip columns, solve personality conflicts, and find solutions to casting problems. The Coen Bro's do a superb job with production values and costuming to provide the early 1950's setting in great detail, including some pull-back screen shots of the countless large sound stages and back lots with enormous structures that populated the acreage occupied by the major studios. Even the color saturation goes for the kind of look Technicolor created in that era.

The result is film that pans and skewers what Hollywood was during the 1950's, and their epic productions. The film's title comes from the fictitious studio's major production nearing the end of filming, the fictitious "Hail, Caesar!" Those familiar with Biblical Roman Empire epics from that era will see it as a blend of Ben-Hur, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, and King of Kings. Likewise there is a synchronized swimming movie in production, an obvious nod to the late 1940's and early 1950's "aquamusicals" with Olympic synchronized swimming star Esther Williams. Lest the classic dance musicals get left out, there's one of those with ballroom dancing and another musical patterned after the film adaptations of the large production Broadway stage musicals. The film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific from the late 1950's comes to mind immediately. Lest it be left out, there are clear nods in a couple directions to the Senator Joe McCarthy Hollywood Commie Witch-Hunt and Blacklisting that centered on many writers (it also ensnared producers and actors). The icing on the cake is getting to see how the screen personas carefully groomed by the studios for public consumption do not necessarily match real life actor personalities (more on this would create spoilers). This is counterbalanced by the twin gossip columnists who are unquestionably patterned after Hedda Hopper and pig sty of actor and studio scandals she could revel in with her syndicated newspaper column.

The fictitious movie productions depicted were the large scale film spectacles with production values/designs and shooting schedules TV could not hope to compete with or produce. Hollywood was desperately looking for cinema that could differentiate itself on the big screen from the living room small screen in a manner that would draw people back into the movie theaters. The risk, though, was one major epic film flop could ruin a film studio financially. It was a pressure cooker environment, and that's the world in which Eddie Mannix worked.

Don't expect situations or jokes that will elicit knee-slapping guffaws. The humor is very wry and very dry. It's in all the convoluted contortions Eddie Mannix must go through to keep the studio's film productions from derailing and coming to a grinding halt and bleeding at a rate of untold dollars per day. Having seen Francois Truffaut's 1973 film, "Day for Night" a number years ago, I immediately "got it" with where the Coen Bro's were going with this movie. The real humor is a behind the scenes look on the last years of the Hollywood Golden Age studio system with all its warts and feet of clay the studios tried very hard to conceal from the general public using smoke and mirrors with sleight of hand, a romantic image that nostalgically persists to this day.

Not the best of the Coen Bro's work, but not the worst either, which sill makes it an excellent film. Four solid stars for a job extremely well done.
43 people found this helpful
Todd M.Reviewed in the United States on February 19, 2018
4.0 out of 5 starsThe Coen brothers do it again… but likely not for everyone.
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I’m not sure why this has twice as many 1-stars as it does 5-stars but if you’re not familiar with, nor watched, movies from the Hollywood of the 50’s a lot of this will likely not be funny nor make much sense. The humor is not “inside” but rather a take on the times shown in segments of movies under production, the problems of the cast and how the “fixer” handles a full plate of issues. If you don’t want to see film sets doing a Caesar epic, synchronized swimming, a sailor song & dance and a cowboy star then you might want to pass over this one. It was fun to watch and had some social commentary on the times but Josh Brolin held it all together and even George Clooney did an excellent job. There is a discussion group where the studio wants to know if it’s handling of Jesus is offensive to anyone in the Hail, Caesar movie under production and the religious representatives may be off-putting to some in their responses… though we found it pretty humorous.
18 people found this helpful
donmusicReviewed in the United States on January 15, 2019
5.0 out of 5 starsMasterpiece
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As a long time fan, I say this is one of their best. I have already watched this Blu-ray three times since I received it last week, and as is the case with many Coen Brothers films, I discover new delights with each viewing: a subtle joke I missed (“squint!”), an outstanding performance from a supporting actor (notice Heather Goldenhersh’s subtle brilliance as Natalie, for example, revel in Robert Trebor’s cameo, and of course fall in love with Veronica Osorio’s Carlotta Valdez as soon as she enters the frame, which she instantly owns), and profound themes that gradually become more apparent and seem to dovetail with themes of other Coen Bros. Films. Like a classic Firesign Theatre record, a good Coen Brothers movie brings a new experience every time.

From Robert Picardo’s Rabbi to how Scarlett Johansson’s DeeAnna handles her chewing gum, this movie is pure fun for me. I wouldn’t have bothered writing this review had the low star rating not caught my eye; I think it’s an injustice because the acting, writing, lighting, sound, dancing, freaking everything about this movie is top, top quality.
Opinions are opinions, and the Coen brothers are no strangers to provoking strong reactions, but I sincerely think giving this film one star is unfair. I haven’t even mentioned how perfectly Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, I haven’t said anything about the colorful variety in the way the different genres are so lovingly represented, and I haven’t even praised Tilda Swinton!
But I have to stop myself, somewhere. I think I’ve made my point. Masterpiece.
9 people found this helpful
B. BergerReviewed in the United States on April 16, 2018
5.0 out of 5 starsLOVE Coen Brothers Satire
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Every time I watch this movie I laugh out loud. It's a spoof of studio-owned-actors/writers years, '40s early '50s. Clooney as a dumb but gifted actor, Channing Tatum as lead tap dancer and Communist, and the ever-clever Tilde Swinton as twin gossip columnist sisters who hate each other but pedal the same poop. New-comer Alden Ehenreich (Biff's grip) holds his own amid this firmament of stars -- Ralph Fiennes, Josh Brolin, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, etc.

Sight gags are abundant, e.g., studio flunky with a clipboard says asks actor on a cross at Calvary if he's "a principal or an extra," Communist dog named Engles, subway comes up at some appointed spot in the ocean at night ... lotsa gags.
8 people found this helpful
Joy DevoreReviewed in the United States on November 28, 2018
5.0 out of 5 starsOde to the 50's
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What "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" is to Westerns is what "Hail, Caesar" is to Hollywood in the 50's. Okay, yes, you do have to be a bit of a movie history buff to really appreciate this film. If you're the kind of person who references films all the time, and you're used to the strange stares from people, you're going to love this one! From big pictures like "Ben-Hur" and "The 10 Commandments" to the sailors and synchronized swimmers, "Hail, Caesar" nails 'em all...to the cross, that is. It's one rip-roarin' spoof! The commies, the clichés, the Crucifixion -- it's all there in living color. If you love the quirky Coen Brothers, you oughta give this a shot.
4 people found this helpful
Crow-ConspiratorReviewed in the United States on August 14, 2018
3.0 out of 5 starsA lot of people seem to take the communist’s writers’ group as making fun of the communist writers
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I think those who see this as some sort of “love letter” to Golden Age Hollywood are missing the point. It’s a subversion. The reality is there were leftists, especially among writers. A lot of people seem to take the communist’s writers’ group as making fun of the communist writers. No. It’s making fun of the very idea that there were leftist writers. Ho hum, St. Trumbo, yes, I get it. And Taylor Channing Tatum [NOW thanks for the correction!] can dance, but he turns something like from Follow the Fleet into a homosexual subtext. Yawn.

Why does MGM fixer Eddie Mannix walk around through deserted lots? Where is the bustle of a big studio? That looks cheap and sloppy.

So why three stars? There are some very watchable scenes and a brainwashed George Clooney spouting Communist propaganda getting slapped by Josh Brolin’s Mannix is worth a star by itself. The scene where the cowboy star can’t say his line no matter how patiently he’s coached is worth another one. There are others good enough for another star and it hits a (very) few accurate marks from Golden Age Hollywood.

But make no mistake: this was not made with love for its subject.
3 people found this helpful
classicalsteveReviewed in the United States on May 9, 2019
4.0 out of 5 starsMovies Within a Movie: Coen Bros Zing 1950's Hollywood Culture: All the World's a Movie
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From the very beginning of film as manufactured entertainments to be consumed not unlike candy and popcorn until circa 1965, the Hollywood studios were giant movie factories. They cranked out films like the latest dessert or candy bar to be quickly devoured and ingested until the next time. The studios were often making multiple films on different sound stages. When television became serious competition for entertainment seekers in the 1950's, the studios fought back by making large epic pictures in a new format: Cinemascope, a widescreen format which could not be accommodated by current television technology. Cinemascope films often took place in ancient times: "The Robe", "Ben Hur", and "The Ten Commandments". (Only by circa 1990 did some films begin appearing on VHS tape in their original widescreen formats and could be viewed as such on televisions.)

The Coen brothers attack the old Hollywood studio system and culture with the subtlety of a hacksaw and apply it to pre-1960 Hollywood like King Kong escaping from his bonds. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is a "movie star" in the old pre-Marlon Brando sense. He plays over-the-top characters in love stories and epics, not just to please cinema-goers who like the stories of his films, but also his adoring fans who will pay the box office to watch whatever he stars in. He's currently in "Hail, Caesar!" (undoubtedly similar to "The Robe", the first ever Cinemascope movie, and "Ben Hur") as a centurion who will experience the humanity and divinity of Christ in ancient Palestine.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a movie mogul probably modeled after Louis B. Mayer (who executive produced MGM musicals) and Darryl F. Zanuck (producer of "Gone with the Wind"). The actors under contract in his studio Capitol Pictures are his chess pieces, and he moves them around from film-to-film, the studio being like a giant chess board. Mannix assigns his actors and directors at will. But he not only controls the projects; he also governs the lives of the Hollywood people. He determines who will go with whom to film premiers, and even occasionally makes decisions involved about his stars' personal lives in terms of marriages and families. (In point of fact, Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller was forced by the studios to divorce his wife. The conventional wisdom: female audiences would be less interested in attending his Tarzan films if they knew he was married and unavailable.)

The film "Hail Caesar" is only a few scenes away from completion, but their star, Whitlock has been kidnapped! Interspersed with this plot are sequences in which we view other films being shot at the studio. In particular we meet a country-western airhead who is playing in musical westerns. He's tapped by the studio to play a supporting character in a sophisticated costume drama which has dire consequences! We also see a bar scene in a movie musical being shot where all the off-duty sailors break into song and dance! In the meantime, a horrid stand-in takes the place of Whitlock in the period film, and they shoot his scenes with his back to the camera!

While most critics enjoyed this scathing reality check of Hollywood culture, general movie goers were less than enthusiastic. There are many in-jokes about the entertainment industry, not all of them flattering, some of them sobering. In some scenes which are supposed to be "real life", the scenes look like film shots, particularly with the sky appearing more like a matte painting than real. I think the point the Coen brothers are making is that the entire Hollywood world is an endless movie in and of itself. Especially when you consider the gossip columnists who endlessly used their pens like swords to expose the latest scandalous behavior behind the scenes. A really fun movie if you understand the unreality of Show Biz. All the world's a movie, without the credits!
VideobarbsReviewed in the United States on June 24, 2018
4.0 out of 5 starsHail Coen Brothers with another great take of the forgotten Hollywood studio era
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I've been vacillating on whether to rent or not rent this movie. I'm not a huge George Clooney fan (though I enjoyed him in "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Good Night and Good Luck"), but I do like some of the Coen Brothers pictures, so I took a chance and I really liked it. The story was an engaging and moved along at a tolerable pace; I was never tempted to fast forward the movie as I do with some others ("Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing MO" and "Lady Bird"). The cast was excellent and who could go wrong with Ralph Fiennes, Frances McDormand and Tatum Channing, Scarlett Johansson were very good and I loved the wooden cowboy actor played by Alden Ehrenreich Tobey. Over the decades movies have parodied themselves and point out the obvious flaws of tinsel town; "Sunset Blvd", and "The Player" come to mind. Also, another Coen creation, "Barton Fink". One somewhat grotesque Hollywood classic from 1975 and forgotten by many was "The Day of the Locust". With all those previous movies in my memory, I found this story very original and the twist at the end was good along with the great undertones of the mood in Hollywood and its' somewhat controversial politics of the day.
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