Birdman (2014)

Is it a Bird? Is it a Man?

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zach Galifianakis, Naomi Watts, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough

To say that the superhero genre has blown up over the past few years is an understatement. The considerable success stories of The Dark Knight and The Avengers has led to the genres vastly expanding, planning multiple stories in their own Universes, with a total of 10 films to be released over the next two years alone. A genre reaching such heights lends itself to become satirized, and that's what Birdman is here to do.

Riggan Thomson (Keaton), a washed-up actor known for portraying the superhero 'Birdman', attempts to reinvent himself by directing a Raymond Carver adaptation on Broadway. As opening night gets closer, he faces battles from his cast members, his family and his broken psyche.

What truly caught peoples attention about this film was its choice in casting lead. To portray a washed up actor best known for playing a superhero role, to select former Caped Crusader Michael Keaton for the role is utterly genius. The astonishing thing though is this casting could have merely been a gimmick, but Keatons mesmerising performance proves to actually be a safe bet. It's a performance sure to return him to the spotlight and lead roles, as opposed to the supporting roles he's recently been relegated to.

Keaton's character, Riggan Thomson, is a man who wants to be taken seriously, and adored, as he attempts to distance himself away from his superhero role. The ever-present percussion soundtrack represents a chance to delve into his psyche, into his narcissistic personality. This is evident best when he recounts a near-death experience, and how his primary fear at the time was his death being eclipsed by George Clooneys (interesting that another Batman actor was named for this comparison). It's a remarkable insight into this character, backed up by delusions of telekinetic abilities, flight and the Christian Bale-esque voice of his Birdman character.

The supporting cast are all remarkable and worthy of praise. Edward Norton threatens to steal the film with his erection wonderful performance, poking fun at his infamous "difficult to work with" reputation, while Zach Galifianakis proves there's life for him outside of the annoying man-child roles he gets typecast in. Despite appearing in a few scenes, Lindsey Duncan makes a big impression as a critic hell-bent on destroying Riggan's play before even seeing it, due to a bias about his superhero past. Emma Stone is exceptional, bringing to life the tropes of drug addict and daughter into a fully formed, three dimensional character.

In a career of outstanding work, it's a feat that Emmanuel Lubezki somehow manages to deliver his most masterful work to date. The integration of each scene into the other is seamlessly done, bringing forth a fantastic illusion that the film has been made in one continuous shot. This effects allows the illusion that you're watching an actual play, with opportunities to take a look behind the scenes at the zany going-ons with the cast and their clashing egos.

Alejandro González Iñárritu's impressive ambitions are reflected well in the outstanding performances, the look into the ego, the heartfelt moments and the seamless shots. In short, Birdman is fantastic stuff.