Despite officially being released early in October, Birdman has found its way out of limited to release and is now ready for consumption by the masses. The Alejandro González Iñárritu directed film is first and foremost is amazing to behold. And this is coming from someone who did not enjoy any of his other acclaimed films such as Babel, 21 Grams and Amores Perros. For this film Alejandro González Iñárritu created the illusion that the entire 2 hour film is a single shot. And oddly this never felt like a gimmick, partially due to the fact the majority of the takes were between 10-12 minutes long. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s constantly moving camera brings the audience not into the film’s world, but Riggan Thomson’s world. The actor the world knows as Birdman.
While I am bias due to my deep affection for Burton’s Batman films and Beatlejuice, I’ve always thought Michael Keaton was a solid actor. His work in such movies as Jackie Brown, Clean and Sober and My Life are examples I would cite of his ability to handle dramatic materiel. This film solidifies his range and intensity. With the long shots used in Birdman this allows the cast to demonstrate their ability. While Zach Galifianakis is good, Birdman works as a playground for the talents of Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, and Andrea Riseborough to show off their craft. The screenplay and plot portray the film’s characters as incredibly flawed and simple people. Your empathy and sympathy for them is dependent of the baggage you bring to the film.
Birdman the film exists in a world where A List stars are now embracing comic book films, while still maintaining their credibility as actors. For actors who became famous for these roles when they had less prestige such as Riggan Thomas (Michael Keaton) when he played Birdman (Batman) and then walked away to find success that never came. As we see the world through Riggan eyes, we are in a surrealist place, and Alejandro González Iñárritu’ allows the audience to interpret the voice of Birdman that coaches Riggan through the play he is producing, adapting from Raymond Carver’s (Raymond Chandler) short story and staring in. Because the audience is left with Riggan’s view we are left to determine what is real, what is fantasy and if the difference doesn’t matter.
This is one of the film’e key strengths. Allowing the audience to make this decision for ourselves. The reasons why superhero films are great, and awful in what they represent are laid out honestly and without judgement. Alejandro González Iñárritu is trusting the audience to think about these ideas ourselves. With amazing visuals, incredible performances and a simple honesty about why people choose to look at the world around them in different lenses Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a film worth catching.
M.R. Gott is the author of the fanboy horror hybrid Rising Dead, as well as Where the Dead fear to Tread. Click here for a free short story or novella.