Is it a bird? Er, kinda...

SFX - - Rated / Cinema -

Re­lease Date: 2 Jan­uary

15 | 119 min­utes Distrib­u­tor: Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox Di­rec­tor: Ale­jan­dro González Iñár­ritu Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Ed­ward Nor­ton, Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis, Naomi Watts

Di­rec­tor Ale­jan­dro

González Iñár­ritu is a man more known for ex­plor­ing the darker cor­ners of life with the likes of Amores Per­ros, Ba­bel and Biu­ti­ful. Here, though, while the dark­ness re­mains on tap, it’s blended with absurdist com­edy and just a hint of fan­tasy.

Michael Keaton plays Rig­gan Thomp­son, an ac­tor who’s try­ing to es­cape his su­per­hero ca­reer past and rein­vent him­self by stag­ing a Broad­way play. But the stresses and strains of mount­ing the pro­duc­tion – par­tic­u­larly the needy weirdos in the cast and crew – are tip­ping him ever closer to in­san­ity as his ob­ses­sion grows.

Keaton is per­fect as Thomp­son, chan­nelling both his own cowl­don­ning past as Bat­man and his typ­i­cally twitchy per­for­mance style into the por­trayal of a man who wishes he’d done more with his pro­fes­sional life, but who just can’t get out of his own way, a sit­u­a­tion not helped by his old cin­e­matic al­ter- ego whis­per­ing in his ear. Iñár­ritu’s di­rec­tion both grounds the film with Keaton’s cen­tral role and sends it soar­ing, the cam­era drift­ing around the the­atre and beyond in a way that makes the film look like one con­tin­u­ous shot ( it isn’t, but he man­ages a con­vinc­ing fac­sim­ile).

And it’s not a one- man show, with fine, neu­rotic work from Ed­ward Nor­ton and Naomi Watts ( as preen­ing, driven fel­low ac­tors), Emma Stone ( as Thomp­son’s trou­bled daugh­ter) and Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis, strug­gling to keep the whole show to­gether as Rig­gan’s best friend/ pro­ducer.

Bird­man won’t be for ev­ery­one: the swirling cam­er­a­work and thrum­ming jazz per­cus­sion sound­track can be off- putting at times. And if you’re ex­pect­ing much in the way of su­per­hero ac­tion, don’t be fooled by the trailer – that’s ex­tra spice, not the main course and not the fo­cus of the di­rec­tor and his co- writ­ers. In fact, the cur­rent pop cul­ture fix­a­tion on comic book he­roes comes in for plenty of rib­bing. But with great act­ing, unique style and a crawl be­hind the var­ied neu­roses of the the­atri­cal world, it’s not hard to see why the film is win­ning so much praise. James White To get the sin­gle- shot look, the cast had to per­form up to 15 pages of di­a­logue at a time while hit­ting pre­cise marks.

“So if Bat­man is Bird­man, who’s the Hulk?”

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