Hail, Caesar! is the name of the new Coen brothers movie, a comedy of sorts set in and around a Hollywood studio in the early 1950s. It is also the name of a movie within the movie — though the full title of that other film is actually Hail, Caesar!: A Tale of the Christ. And there’s a lot we could start unpacking just with that title.
Watch: Josh Brolin tells George Clooney to give a speech at the foot of the penitent thief in first clip from Hail, Caesar!
Movies are a huge money-making industry — but they also offer moments of spiritual uplift. Actors often play noble, inspiring characters — but they serve the visions of artists and businessmen who sometimes treat them like cogs in a machine.
These and other tensions are captured in the first clip from Hail, Caesar!, a film that was once described by its directors, the Coen brothers, as a film about “the movie business and life and religion and faith. Faith and the movie business.”
Exclusive: Risen star Joseph Fiennes on playing doubters and men of faith — sometimes at the same time
Joseph Fiennes burst onto the scene nearly two decades ago in a pair of movies set in Elizabethan times: Elizabeth, in which he played the title character’s lover, and Shakespeare in Love, in which he played the title character himself.
Since then, Fiennes has kept busy in a variety of films, many of them period pieces — and lately, he has starred in a few films about famous Christians, such as the Reformation biopic Luther and the upcoming Eric Liddell film The Last Race.
Next month he’ll be seen in Risen as a Roman officer named Clavius who takes part in the death of Jesus and is then told to find the body after it vanishes from its tomb. Clavius is assisted in his quest by Lucius, a fellow soldier played by Tom Felton (who previously worked with Fiennes’ brother Ralph on the Harry Potter movies).
Of the making of movies about Jesus, there is no end. In the first three months of this year alone: Son of Man, which casts a black man as Christ and sets his life in modern South Africa, got positive reviews at Sundance; the makers of Color of the Cross, which also casts a black man as Christ, established a website with trailers for their work-in-progress; and New Line Cinema announced that Oscar nominees Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) will star as the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth in a new movie about the Nativity, to be released in time for Christmas.
Based on a novel by John Le Carré, The Constant Gardener is more of a political message delivery system than a movie. It is also extremely well made. And unlike, say, The Interpreter — the recent Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn flick which paired Hollywood glamour with trite social parables, and ended up sending out muddled messages — this new film knows how to put its craftsmanship to the service of its message, which is fierce and focused throughout. Many political thrillers use the travails of the so-called Third World as an excuse to show glamorous people doing exciting things, but The Constant Gardener comes at it the other way ’round. Here, the mysteries and conspiracies take us deeper into an African situation which, the film assures us, reflects the reality on the ground.