Joel and Ethan Coen have crafted a peculiar ode to old Hollywood in Hail, Caesar! The principal protagonist in the film is Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a producer and “fixer” tasked with making sure that everything runs smoothly at Capitol Pictures. He hops from fire to fire, and along the way gives us a haphazard overview of the Hollywood studio system by visiting the sets of different pictures. While different threads of his life entwine together into a coherent story by the end of the film, particular elements fail or succeed largely on the merits of the superb supporting cast of characters. Regardless, moments of hilarity exist in this mish-mash of tone and style, and the worst sin Hail, Caesar! can be accused of is failing to synthesize its zany parts into a cohesive whole.
Precisely every 23 minutes, the standard length of a half-hour of broadcast network television, Good Night, and Good Luck. is interrupted by a jazz song. This instills George Clooney’s Red Scare historical drama with a distinctly episodic feel, mirroring the drama that unfolds on screen. The story follows newscaster Edward R. Murrow as he and others at CBS confront Senator Joseph McCarthy at the height of his anti-communist witch hunts. Shot in color but corrected to black-and-white, the film returns us to another time where paranoia ruled the nation, and where men capable of capitalizing on it rose to national prominence by fanning the fear. It also offers a biting condemnation of media outlets in general, and especially the corporate nature of television broadcasts.