Birdman review: Michael Keaton’s triumphant return to the spotlight

Posted on 6 January 2015
By George Heron
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Michael Keaton is back in a lead role, something that has not consistently occurred since the 1990s. After numerous cameo and supporting roles, it’s great to see him at the forefront once again with Birdman.

Riggan Thomson (Keaton) is an actor in his 60s who’s taking one last shot at creative success by adapting and directing a book by Raymond Carver called ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ into a Broadway play. This is a departure from what has made him previously successful, the Birdman movies of the ’90s, a superficial success that hangs over everything he does.

The film is made in a very unique way, like it’s one big take with the one camera. The camera moves around the theatre freely. Time progresses at certain points but it’s all seamless, creating an irresistible flow. The camera positioning is crucial and innovative, too.

It feels like a fly-on-the-wall at times, which also flies around the characters up close and personal to fully portray emotions and moods.

Keaton’s performance is stunning. He deserves an Oscar for his all-encompassing depiction of an actor constantly teetering on the brink between success and failure. He helps create so many memorable scenes with some stunning monologues and physical comedy. A complete performance.

Kudos must also go to the supporting cast with Zach Galifianakis, Ed Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts adding the complicated lives of their own characters into the mix. Galifianakis is the straight guy for a change, Thomson’s lawyer and best friend, trying his best to keep the production together, which could easily fall apart at any point by the slightest thing.

Director and co-writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu has crammed so many themes into this film yet it doesn’t feel preachy or overwrought. Not that it holds back in the slightest. We’re in dark comedy mode here, exploring (amongst many other themes) the ego, delusions of grandeur, mental illness, the ageing process, neglectful parents, divorce and something that struck a chord personally with me, the role of the critic.

I’m not going to start justifying why I started writing reviews but let’s just say Keaton tears all critics a new one. It’s the kind of film that would make anyone question themselves and how they have spent their life thus far.

Nobody could possibly do a review without devoting at least one sentence to the stunning percussive music that further enhances the film. When I say percussive, I mean the score is 99.99999% drums. A nice touch is the live drummers that turn up now and again to provide a live score to the proceedings.

It’s worth sticking around to the very end of the film as the credits move and fade in time to the rhythm. One can’t help but be transfixed from beginning to end.