When the first trailer for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s movie Birdman came out, I was not entirely convinced of its merit as a movie. The roughly-cut trailer of the film seemed awkward, with no clear plot outlined. All I knew was that Michael Keaton was starring as what seemed to be himself, Zach Galifianakis was starring in a role that was not slapstick, and Edward Norton seemed to be delivering an unsurprisingly great performance.
If you have yet to see this movie, but have heard people sing its praise, here’s the only piece of wisdom I can offer about Birdman: Any praise it receives does not do it justice. If you’ve seen the trailer for it and are entirely unconvinced by it, rest assured that it is in no way indicative of its brilliance. I think the reason for this boils down to one thing: Birdman is made to look like one tracking shot the entire film. Cutting it up for a trailer is confusing, and chops up the brilliant story.
Although the technical gimmick of having a single tracking shot for the whole film is (in my opinion) enough reason alone to see this movie, Birdman excels in many more ways. Mainly, the acting.
To see Michael Keaton be so brilliant in a main role up on the big screen is something that brings me immense joy. For me, when I think of Batman, Michael Keaton is who comes to mind (for me, the Dark Knight Trilogy stands on its own). I grew up watching Keaton don the cowl, and I loved it. Seeing him in The Other Guys a few years ago was refreshing, but nothing compares to seeing him deliver one of the best performances in recent years. Alejandro González Iñárritu brilliantly sets the stage in the film, but its through Keaton’s brilliant performance that this movie shines. The nature of the film’s tracking shot idea is such that it relies heavily on its actors’ performances, which is why Keaton’s performance is integral to success, as are the performances of its actors in supporting roles.
The actors in supporting roles did a great job as well for the most part. The performance that really shines through is Edward Norton’s. Norton is, in my opinion, one of the best working actors right now. His ability to truly change for his different characters is almost unmatched (see American History X, Moonrise Kingdom, Fight Club, and Primal Fear), and his performance in Birdman is no exception to this. Norton delivers the beautifully written part beautifully. As far as other supporting performances are concerned, all the actors did a good job, although no one else stood out to me as much. Emma Stone did well, Zach Galifianakis was surprisingly good, and Naomi Watts was unsurprisingly good.
Behind every great performance in this film is some brilliant writing. The film’s writers create fantastically interesting characters with rich backstories, and equally rich development during the film. Having the film be a tracking shot means that it relies a lot on interesting, rich dialogue, and Birdman gives the viewers just that.
In the interest of not sounding too much like a fanboy of this movie, I will stop singing its praise, but I will say this: Birdman is a movie that made me fall in love with the world of film all over again. For an art form that has been around so competitively for so long, and for there to still be films as shockingly brilliant and new as this is so heartwarming and amazing. To sum up its strengths, Birdman more than excels in its cinematography, directing, acting, and music (I didn’t go into detail about this, but it features a simplistic, brilliant soundtrack). Although some performances were not as good as others, no actor in this movie did a bad job. I can think of no overwhelming fault with this movie.