The Films of Alejandro González Iñárritu
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Click here for review.
Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (December 18/14)
An ambitious failure, Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) follows Michael Keaton's Riggan Thomson, a washed-up Hollywood actor, as he attempts to launch an ambitious stage adaptation of Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love - with the movie detailing the various misadventures that occur in the hours leading up to the play's opening night performance. Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu has infused Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) with an almost aggressively pronounced sense of style, as the movie unfolds in a series of seamlessly connected, completely unbroken takes that are, generally speaking, quite hypnotic - with the visual gimmick certainly playing an instrumental role in initially capturing the viewer's interest. It's clear, however, that the film's biggest draw is its uniformly stirring performances; Keaton's incredible efforts here likely rank among his best work on film, while several of his costars, including Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifianakis, add more-than-capable color and backup support to the proceedings. There's never a point, however, at which Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) becomes the engrossing, all-encompassing experience that González Iñárritu has obviously intended, with the narrative's almost total lack of standout sequences contributing heavily to the film's increasingly tedious atmosphere. (The only real exception to this is an exhilarating interlude in which Riggan makes his way through New York's Times Square in just his underwear.) It is, as such, difficult to accept the off-the-wall twists that dominate the movie's final stretch, while the growing emphasis on "magical" moments ensures that the emotional impact of several last-minute plot developments fall completely flat - which ultimately confirms Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)'s status as a promising yet thoroughly disappointing miscalculation.
Alejandro González Iñárritu's best movie since Babel, The Revenant tells the gritty story of a frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio's Hugh Glass) who's left for dead by a rival (Tom Hardy's John) and must fend for himself in the increasingly harsh wilderness. It's clear immediately that filmmaker González Iñárritu isn't looking to take a conventional approach to the admittedly familiar material, as The Revenant has been infused with an intense, in-your-face visual sensibility that persists for the duration of the movie's 156 minute running time. The film's incredibly visceral atmosphere is established right from the get-go with a thrilling battle sequence, with the remainder of the unabashedly episodic story detailing Hugh's ongoing efforts at heading to safety. There's little doubt that The Revenant, as a result, does suffer from a decidedly uneven midsection, as González Iñárritu and scripter Mark L. Smith offer up a narrative that occasionally dwells a little too deeply on the minutia of Hugh's ordeal - with the movie containing many long, dialogue-free stretches in which the central character makes his way across the punishing landscape. The consistently watchable vibe, then, is due both to González Iñárritu's uncompromising sensibilities and to DiCaprio's thoroughly electrifying turn as the grizzled protagonist, with, in terms of the latter, the actor stepping into the shoes of his beleaguered character to a degree that's nothing short of captivating (ie DiCaprio has never been quite this commanding and compelling before). And although the film does drag in the buildup to its climax, The Revenant closes with an absolutely spellbinding (and impressively brutal) stretch that ensures it ends on a far more positive note than one might've anticipated - and yet it's ultimately clear that the film could (and should) have been much, much shorter.