Birdman follows washed up actor Riggan (Michael Keaton, Batman, Beetlejuice) in the days leading up to the opening of his comeback Broadway play. Riggan is famed for having played 90’s superhero Birdman and throughout the film we witness his character undertake the unexplained such as levitate and move things by sight. You’re never quite sure if he is a real life superhero, or we are seeing his internal perception of the world as he battles with his inner demons, of which he appears to have many.
The first thing to notice with the film is that cinematically it looks impressive and is presented to look like it is shot in one continuous take, by one camera. The camera is generally continuously moving and circles around the actors talking, or focuses on a group. There is one particularly breathtaking shot which starts high up in the rafters of the theatre to swoop down to focus in on the actors performing on the stage, and the scenes of Keaton walking through Time Square in his underpants are amazing too.
With the nature of this way of shooting, the film is highly stylised in a way that could jar with some people. It’s very bam bam bam, slick and quick, blink and you’ll miss it. And because of the precise nature of the timing of the shots and dialogue, the language and the delivery does sometimes feel like a theatrical play performance.
One danger the film has with this type of approach is that without a story, there is the possibility of it relying on the cinematography for the impact, that it’s style over substance. However the story grips you to your seat, particularly as Riggan descends into his own psychosis. The additional subplots involving Riggan’s daughter Sam (Emma Stone, Magic in the Moonlight, The Help) and nemesis Mike (Edward Norton, The Gran Budapest Hotel, The Bourne Legacy), contribute to the film’s depth and make it more than a narcissistic insight into one man’s internal struggles.
To say that Michael Keaton is good in this film is an understatement, he is unbelievabley transcendent, and he brings in energy to the complex role what he brought to Beetlejuice. This is a career defining role and performance, and one that should be celebrated.
Edward Norton’s Mike is a risk-taking, method actor of mammoth unlikeable proportions. Norton is comedic to the point of pantomime in his delivery of the lines, to the extent that I was not always convinced by his heightened portrayal. However his character brought some well needed comedy to the proceedings, especially when he takes to the sunbed. Emma Stone who played Riggan’s daughter Sam was fantastic and brought a welcomed dose of sensitivity and realness to the madness. Her Golden Globe nomination is highly justified.
With award nominations flying in for all key members of the cast, along with Whiplash, Birdman is set to be the most anticipate film of 2015. I can heartily concur that it stands up to the hype and is a breath-taking film to be celebrated. You probably didn’t need me to tell you this, but you have to see this movie.
Genre: Drama, Comedy Distributor: 20th Century Fox Release Date: 1st January 2015 (UK) Rating:15 Running Time: 119 mins Director:Alejandro González Iñárritu Cast: Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts