Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is an immensely satisfying black comedy which is skilfully crafted and finely executed.
Riggan, who hit the big time playing film superhero Birdman, is trying to make a comeback on Broadway. Directing and starring in a new play, Riggan must contend with family, co-actors, and his superhero past…
Director and co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu has created a marvellous piece of cinema with Birdman. González Iñárritu controls the action with precision, but makes everything look endlessly natural and unrehearsed.
Birdman marries its different themes well. The film works on different layers; as a meta comedy, as surreal gameplay, and as tragic drama. Birdman is well paced, unfolding in a manner that is both engaging and unpredictable.
Comedy in González Iñárritu’s film is tight. There are lots of amusing asides to real actors and indeed the actors playing in the film. Part of the amusement arises from the film playing absurd situations straight; the comic effect here is most successful. Drama in the film works well also, thanks to the strength of performances. The script at times has an almost old-fashioned, rapid-fire quality to it, which is very welcome.
Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is a marvel. Lubezki captures both the claustrophobic freneticism of backstage, and the wonderfully abstract visuals of the more surreal sequences. The lack of obvious editing gives the film an energetic feel.
In this film about a former superhero star making a comeback, Michael Keaton is fantastic. The protagonist delivers a tour de force performance, serving as a timely reminder of what a great performer Keaton is. Acting is faultless across the board, with Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis delivering strong performances.
Birdman has hitherto received significant critical attention for good reason. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film is essential viewing.