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Birdman – Review


Release Date: 14 November 2014 [USA]
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Writer: Alejandro González Iñárritu - Nicolás Giacobone - Alexander Dinelaris - Armando Bo
Cast: Michael Keaton - Zach Galifianakis - Edward Norton



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Posted January 22, 2015 by

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Birdman Review:

There’s something strange about Birdman. It just manages to pull you in, grabbing you from either side into its diverse world of one long shot, a man on the edge of life and an attention for jazz music. It’s Birdman and it manages to do just that. Once in the tight corridors of the theatre on New York’s Broadway, you’re trapped, sort of like the characters that inhabit it.

Birdman is a 2014 film (although only just released in the UK this year) which involves Michael Keaton as an age old actor. He’s getting on (just as he is in the real world), however, he’s trapped in this past role as ‘Birdman’, a comic book character who had a string of films in the 80’s and 90’s. Keaton is pushing, trying so hard to break the mould and show he IS an actor, and by doing that he’s adapting a play for the theatre which he is directing and starring in. Straight away the film emphasises the modern world, what actors are going through now and what they will be 20 years from now. It ushers in Keaton’s very acting presence itself, being the starring role as Batman in Tim Burton’s late 80’s films, as Keaton began to fizzle out through the late 90’s before just disappearing. I mean really, name a Keaton film from the last 10 years without hitting the Wikipedia page.

It doesn’t just show off in a metaphorical way Keaton’s career as it slips in various details on other actors, such as a news reel revealing Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man character, or even a beloved scene of mine which involves Keaton aiming for a new actor in the play as he runs through a string of actors, all of which, yep you guessed it, are involved in big blockbuster superhero films. It isn’t just the superhero genre which ties so well into Birdman, but also the idea of actors heading for big money roles. Keaton makes a good point to get across that money isn’t everything in the film, and rather it’s the acting which makes something.

Keaton is on the edge and I mean literally the very edge. He’s going stir crazy with his life, which I’m sure we can name various actors who’ve had breakdowns over the years, but Keaton’s is somewhat different. He’s plagued. Plagued with Birdman, that superhero film role he did in the 80’s/90’s. As a poster sits in his dressing room, always starring at him as if questioning his every move, whispering in his ear how the play is a mistake, he starts to lose it. He begins to breakdown as the gritty voice of his Birdman character mutters things to him, later following him in the streets. It gives the impression of how every actor must feel through their career, big roles will stick with you. Again, back to Batman, Keaton still gets asked questions on the role, which was well over 20 years ago, but it follows him. Just as Robert Downey Jr gets asked about his latest drama film, the Iron Man references spark up, or even as Chris Evans sits down to discuss some crime thriller he’s doing, the questions lead to Captain America.

Along with these elements, the film is cinematically perfect. It oozes intelligence through its camera work as the camera follows person to person down the long theatre corridors. It’s all one long take, the entire film never cutting from scene to scene. It plays on the metaphorical elements of theatre plays, all as if set in one scene, the theatre and this is shown perfectly through the camera work as we follow Keaton trudging down the corridors, Birdman looming over his shoulder. It looks brilliant with the only transitions taking place for a day/night switch over as the camera pans up to the New York skyline for a quick time-lapse. This sort of filmmaking just hasn’t been done, it gives an imaginary, not quite thinking straight sort of feel to the film as if we’re feeling what Keaton is feeling.

The extra bit of crazy added in as if it just doesn’t get fully through to you is the use of the jazz music. The constant beat of the drums in Birdman begs the question, is this going on in Keaton’s head? Maybe, but it works. It keeps the wandering through the streets of New York to an engaging level.

The acting is fine paced with Keaton leading, the daughter role passed off to Emma Stone who feels truly engaged in the role. She gives off the desperate attention like any childhood actors daughter might, with Keaton and Stone’s relationship pressed and pushed due to his busy career in her younger days. Edward Norton joins the cast in what I feel might actually be Norton not acting. Norton is known to be a difficult actor, being a perfectionist so it gives the question as in, is he really acting in this or just playing himself?

Birdman is a loveable film, already a top favourite for 2015 and a film I’d love to see win a few Oscars, having already been nominated for a staggering nine.


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Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 22.37.10

Matthew Reay
Freelance Contributor

One Comment


    Absolutely loved this movie too, totally deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture. Michael Keaton’s performance was just outstanding. I’ve also did a review of this movie, it would mean so much if you could check it out.

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