In five years’ time we will look back and see Birdman as that film where Michael Keaton made his sensational return to the big screen. When you look back on this film you won’t be remembering the plot or the characters but you’ll just remember the performance of Keaton. That’s not to discourage the film itself, it would make a fantastic film without Michael Keaton in the starring role but that’s not why most people want to watch this. We all want to see Keaton in this role; people loved him in Batman and we all saw how diverse as an actor he was with his role in Beetlejuice. His rise to fame came with a sudden crash, he had been absent from any significant role throughout the late 90s and the whole of the 00s. This film is the return of Keaton and it’s impossible to review this film without talking extensively about him. His only notable role is playing a superhero 20 years ago and now he’s trying to get back into the acting business. That is essentially the plot of the film and a summary of Keaton himself.
As I’ve said before people watch this film because of Keaton and not the story. Although this doesn’t mean the plot is poor by any means. The plot is in fact quite refreshing and thought-provoking, we see a washed up actor try and get back into the acting business and we witness his desires to succeed. Many issues pop up throughout including the dispute between trying to pursue your artistic desire or sell yourself out to become relevant again. You get the sense that this film is trying to mirror Keatons life. You can imagine that Keaton had many opportunities to sell out and do an Expendables film or a brainless action flick. You get a lot of realism from this film, the settings are real, the people are real and the obstacles they face seem real. This is a plot people can relate to and gain a sense of involvement. The plot does suffers from a few clichés that you expect from a film about the protagonist trying to get back into the limelight. We have the fall to alcoholism scenes and the protagonist being in an all-time low then suddenly coming back stronger than ever. However, it’s still a thought provoking plot that keeps you talking even when the credits have finished. 7/10
The characters and the way they are portrayed are a major strength of this film. Most characters are delightfully peculiar and have their own unique personalities. Riggan played by Michael Keaton is essentially Keaton playing himself. It’s been discussed if this actually merits as a good performance as he’s basically playing himself but to me I think he has really gone the distance with this role. He looks on edge, he looks unwell and you see a broken man on screen. Whether or not this is Keaton playing himself you can’t deny that this is one unique and fascinating character. You are willing this character to succeed and there are many times where you are thrown back by his performance.
Mike played by Edward Norton is another captivating and unpredictable character. Norton brilliantly portrays this arrogant yet troubled Broadway actor. Yes he is brilliant at his acting job but he’s eccentric, violent and a womaniser. Norton plays this character perfectly, you don’t know what to expect from this character and it was exciting to see what extreme decisions he makes. Unlike other films where a character like this is just a violent mess throughout we get to see times where Mike is his true self and where he is most vulnerable. This is again a brilliant portrayal of an enthralling character by Edward Norton who I believe was the best actor in this film. One of the biggest injustices in the cinema world is that Norton has yet to have won an Academy Award. This is an Oscar worthy performance and I think it will be close between Norton and JK Simmons for best supporting actor.
Everyone else does a decent enough job, Emma Stone in particular is very good as her role as Riggans daughter Sam. You do get the sense that these two are somewhat related even though they look nothing alike. It’s even mentioned in the film that they don’t look like each other. Sam is your typical modern day Hollywood tragedy; she’s been in rehab and has a drug problem. She’s well-acted and there’s one scene where Stone really shows off her acting talent. The rest of the cast plays a side part to the dominance of Keaton and Norton, they are all decent and no one really does an outstanding job. One other actor to point out is Zach Galifianakis who could have done better to bring a few more laughs to the film. He plays as Jake who plays some sort of agent for Keaton’s character. He’s not bad I just expected him to play a more humorous role and add something else to the film. 9/10
Birdman has some of the best visuals I’ve seen from any film from over the past year. It is beautiful to watch. There are barely any cuts throughout the film and you get the sense that you are following the story from ground level. It’s a very interesting piece of filming as we shadow our characters, following them through doors witnessing their everyday lives. It’s like your part of the film and your one of the characters. There are many aspects in the film that make it unique; Riggans constant outbursts are a result of him believing he has some sort of force power. Also the flying scenes when Riggan believes he is Birdman look fantastic and give the effects on Man of Steel a run for their money. New York looks beautiful and the film has really captured the grittiness of the streets and the madness that happens there. Everything feels close and personal as if you could almost touch it, you really do feel immersed with the film. 9/10
I’m not entirely familiar with the works of Alejandro González Iñárritu so I can’t really compare him to previous films. On this film alone I thought he did a brilliant job of portraying the narrative and revealing the stresses of Broadway acting. His visuals were a delight to watch and he mirrored the visuals perfectly with the fast drumming score throughout the film. I love films that make you feel close to the action and this movie got you up close and personal to all the characters. I’m not too aware with Alejandro’s work but this film may persuade me to watch his previous films. 8/10
This was a great experience and you are fully gripped from the titles to the credits. Keaton and Norton in particular raise this film immensely. This film will be remembered as Keaton’s return but many will forget what a wonderful film this actually is. Yes Keaton plays a vital role but he’s just the icing on the cake of what is a beautiful artistic visual roller coaster ride. This is a really engaging film and the experience of watching it was a thrill. 9/10