FILM REVIEW: Birdman is a true cinematic triumph

Despite the plaudits lauded upon it by the critics, and enough awards nominations to fill a Jumbo Jet, Birdman has not exactly stormed the box office here in the UK.

By Ben Green
Tuesday, 3rd February 2015, 2:54 pm
Michael Keaton gives a career-best performance in Birdman
Michael Keaton gives a career-best performance in Birdman

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film peaked at number seven in the box office chart on its week of release, but has unable to make it any higher.

Why this is is beyond me, and the British movie-going public have definitely been missing out.

Birdman is a complete triumph from first frame to last, and Michael Keaton must be an absolute shoe-in for this year’s Best Actor in a Lead Role gong at the Oscars.

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Edward Norton, too, must also be in with a great shout of the Best Supporting Actor award.

The film is a success on many levels.

Iñárritu’s exquisite direction weaves together some great storytelling, stellar performances, a sublime drum score, and razor-sharp black humour, to create an engrossing piece of cinema which delights and moves the viewer in equal measure.

The mesmeric Keaton gives a career-best performance as Riggan Thompson, a ‘washed-up’ Hollywood actor who puts together a Broadway show in a effort to salvage his life.

Norton plays Mike Shiner, the star of Riggan’s stage show, and the friction between the two men is palpable.

This is the Edward Norton we fell in love with when he first made his name in films like American History X, Fight Club, and 25th Hour. Compelling. Dynamic. Visceral.

But despite his best effort he is unable to steal the show from Michael Keaton.

Riggan is a troubled soul, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a man under pressure, desperate to get away from his Birdman person, the role that made his name in a hit movie franchise in the early 1990s.

His personal life is also far from plain sailing, with a fractious relationship with his daughter Sam (played wonderfully by Emma Stone).

Virtually the whole of the movie is set in and around the theatre where Riggan’s show is being staged, a difficult undertaking which is made to look easy by the masterful direction of Iñárritu.

In fact, we only see daylight once in the film, but this is no bad thing. The film has dark themes, for sure, but it also has its joyous moments, laugh-out-loud moments.

As Riggan’s play and life unravel, the film charges towards a climatic and triumphant ending.

It is not often that a movie of the calibre of Birdman comes along, which is all the more reason why it is a must-see, and the good news is that there is still time.

Birdman is still showing at Cineworld Sheffield. Visit for details of times.