The Coen Brothers play homage to classic Hollywood in the kidnapping comedy Hail, Caesar!. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the head of production at Capital Pictures, who is supervising the production of multiple motion pictures, the highest profile of which being the biblical epic Hail, Caesar! A Story of The Christ. When the film’s star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped on set, Mannix has to add dealing with the kidnappers to his list of problems to worry about on a very stressful day.
Through Hail, Caesar! Joel and Ethan Coen bring audiences back to the Hollywood glory days of the 1950s when the studio system was still in full force. While the central plot of the film involves the kidnapping of movie star Baird Whitlock by “The Future,” the film is ultimately an excuse for the Coens to stage a number film scenes in various genres. In addition to the biblical epic that the film is named after, the film features a Western starring Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), an aquatic dance sequence starring DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), and a sailor musical starring Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum). In many ways, the kidnapping plot plays second fiddle to these various “films within the film.”
Hail, Caesar! has an incredibly stacked cast of very familiar faces, some of whom only appear for one or two scenes. This includes Ralph Fiennes as perfectionist director Laurence Laurentz, Tilda Swinton as twin gossip columnists, Jonah Hill as an eccentric notary, and Frances McDormand as a film editor. The film also features some notable cameos by Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, and Robert Picardo, the latter of whom is absolutely hilarious as a Jewish rabbi heavily criticizing the beliefs of Christianity.
There is subplot in Hail, Caesar! that involves Eddie Mannix considering a job offer by the Lockheed aerospace corporation, which would be much more easier on his life than his current studio job. As part of the courting process, Mannix is asked about whether movies will have a continued importance. This is a question that is quite relevant in today’s world and it could be theorized that Coens made this film to both pay homage to this era of Hollywood, while also saying that movies are indeed relevant, even if the film views this time period through a rose-coloured lens, focusing more on the fondly remembered genres, rather than the more schlocky films that were also being produced in that time period.
Altogether, Hail, Caesar! is an enjoyable homage to classic Hollywood.