Erase any expectations you might have of this being a superhero movie. It isn’t one. However, it is a film that is likely to astound and possibly even amaze you. Also known as The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, this dark comedy by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu is a critics’ favourite, and definitely one to look out for.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor in Hollywood trying to make a comeback since his days as Birdman – a superhero in movies that ended years ago. The fictitious Riggan – with his superhero past – now tries to write, direct and star in a theatre production of his own.
Aside from this general story outline, what makes Birdman extraordinary is the fact that it’s done in just one shot – the illusion that makes it look legitimate. The seamless, top-notch production quality easily wins over the hearts of many, for this is no mean feat. From start to end, the whole movie appears to contain no edits, and the wow factor lies in the way it was filmed, which I will leave you to discover for yourself.
Being Birdman in the past, the superhero wields powers of telekinesis and levitation, which the film portrays with apparent ease through the use of visual effects. As there are no obvious cuts, acting performances by the cast are delivered substantially well and are consistent throughout.
Alongside Riggan in Birdman are his lawyer Jake (Zach Galifianakis), popular actor Mike (Edward Norton), girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), ex-wife Sylvia (Amy Ryan), daughter Sam (Emma Stone) and Mike’s girlfriend Lesley (Naomi Watts). Most of the main cast are involved in the play, while Jake is the play’s producer and Sam serves as the assistant greatly frustrated by her father’s lack of social awareness.
Keaton is a seeming natural at this, while Norton and Stone manage to keep up the pace required of them. Their performances complement each other onscreen, on and off stage, while their energy levels bounce off each other. Chemistry between the ensemble cast is a crucial factor, and it clearly shines in this flick.
With a handful of main cast members at his arsenal, Iñárritu directs Birdman with expertise and ensures there is something constantly happening, no matter how dull it might be. There isn’t a moment of stillness as the camera always moves to capture the next piece of action, be it a conversation or a random explosion.
Lauded by critics and in the running for accolades in the upcoming awards season, it is not hard to see why this is a likeable flick. As favoured as it is, there are elements that may not appeal to the masses, such as the lack of apparent cuts to take a short break from the continuous scenes. The hoarse Birdman voiceover and superhero powers may also come off as random to those unaware of the context. Nonetheless, Birdman is fairly enjoyable and something different from the usual Hollywood fare.
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Running time: 119 minutes
Birdman opens in theatres 15 January 2015.