The illusion of a single shot is one of several remarkable things about Birdman. Its clever form compliments its ideas, its actors each on top form as a collections of narcissists and unpleasant egos. It’s a movie about movie making, its over-exhuberent thirst for meta revelations being its undoing. Michael Keaton of Batman fame stars as a washed up superhero trying to restore his career as a proper actor by performing in a high-brow, prestige Broadway play.
The single shot makes the backstage theatre feel manic, director Alejandro González Iñárritu intentionally making it hard to get a grip on reality. Many of the ideas don’t lands as much as they float. There doesn’t seem to be any unifying message to take away from Birdman, which is epitomised in the film’s ending which doesn’t pack enough of a dramatic punch, mainly because what has come before it is only superficially interesting. The writing can be quite didactic and cumbersome. It is a series of outstanding individual performances, not least from Edward Norton whose unpleasant thespian is mesmeric whilst Keaton’s descent into ego-driven madness does something unusual in familiar terrain. But what does it all add up to? An interesting experiment, chaotic and a technical triumph without leaving quite enough to ponder.
Review by David Rank
Birman is out now16th January in the UK and US. Running time 119 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).