Birdman is the latest film from Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu and is by far one of the best films I have seen in the past year. It follows the story of Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) an actor famous for portraying superhero ‘Birdman’ and his quest to over come his ego, recover his career and save himself by starring in and directing a Broadway play.
A long side Keaton stars Zach Galifianakis as Riggan’s lawyer and friend, Emma Stone as Riggan’s troubled daughter, Edward Norton as Mike Shiner a dedicated but pretentious Broadway actor and Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough as actors in Riggan’s play.
One of the big talking points of Birdman is its use of the continuous long take. The majority of the film looks like one seamless take which gives the film a theatrical quality. Despite the close ups on the actors it still feels like you are watching something on stage which makes things seem much more personal and real. The use of the long take also creates a sense of slight claustrophobia at points with the camera constantly moving around the theatre and the surrounding streets. Complimenting the continuous take is a continuous soundtrack. The majority of the score is a sole drummer doing what seems to be an improvised 2 hour song which never seems to quite disappear. At points the score seems to die down and then suddenly come back but it is always there.
As with most long take based films it is extremely dialogue heavy. However, every actor is on point and give superb performances. Keaton plays Riggan seamlessly and at points I had to remember that he was acting and not playing himself. Norton and Stone give fantastic supporting performances and really work great against Keaton. I fully expect at least one of them to take home a few awards later next month. However, Zach Galifinakis was a complete surprise as he managed to hold his own against proper dramatic actors. Of course, he was funny but he was also serious enough to show he has acting chops. Perhaps one day we will see him be the lead in something more dramatic down the line.
The film, while dark, does have some fantastic funny moments. The dialogue is snappy, natural and never boring to listen to and a points there are surprising slap stick moments. At points the film might get a tiny bit preachy about modern movie audiences, that I agree with, but it wasn’t enough for me to dislike it. It treats the audience like grownups keeping plenty of things ambiguous which will keep me chatting about this film for days and days. Please go see this film, it is amazing.