The Coen brothers just keep at it. Hail, Caesar! is a sophisticated meditation on art, politics, and religion. What do you believe in? Why you believe it? Is simply making a good piece of entertainment worthy of faith?
The story takes place on the set of early Fifties Hollywood, where the Coen’s get to recreate the glories of the dream factory while simultaneously making fun of the conventions. Channing Tatum’s delightful dance number leading a group of sailors though benign destruction of a bar works on multiple levels.
The hero, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin in the role of a lifetime), is a fixer. He does whatever job needs doing to make the pictures happen. Mannix’s morality is in question, but not more than the morality of anybody else: Communists, Capitalists, Christians.
At one point the Coens have a kind of stand in, a sophisticated and outspoken rabbi. When the rabbi growls (asked about the ethics of portraying Jesus a movie), “I haven’t an opinion,” this actually means “It’s too complicated to really know.”
Another loaded answer is when the boy playing Jesus is asked (on the cross) if he is a principal or an extra. “I think I’m a principal” he stammers. (Or is it, “principle?”)
Hail, Caesar! is packed with those incredible surreal comic moments that remain a Coen signature. The precise and subtle lines in the script encourage the cast to give their all. Highest recommendation.