New releases rarely offer something unique. It’s almost always hyperbole to say a movie is unlike anything you’ve ever watched. Almost always. But Birdman is unlike anything I’ve ever watched.

An exceptionally well-made dark comedy, Birdman is stunning because of the degree of difficulty it gives itself. For most of the movie, Birdman is a perfect example of limited storytelling since you are restricted to Broadway’s St. James Theatre and the actors involved in the adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Whenever a character leaves the St. James, it’s typically to go on the roof and gaze at the city. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air for the viewer.

Filmed as if it were a single, uninterrupted take, the camera beautifully swoops and cranes to give you a perspective similar to a bird. I cannot recall such graceful camera movement and interesting transitions of time. If anything stands out about Birdman, it’s the direction and creativity that drives the movie.


Without question, the acting is superb. Several will likely be in line for Oscar nominations. Michael Keaton is incredibly believable going batshit crazy as an actor at the end of his road who craves public acceptance for being more than just Birdman. Edward Norton is flawless as usual and Emma Stone is an essential supporting character that the movie desperately needed. Zack Galifianakis plays the straight man and he’s fucking fantastic, which should be expected by now because the man can seriously act.

At the heart of Birdman is an existential crisis and struggle for relevancy.


Michael Keaton plays a washed-up actor named Riggan Thomson who once starred as Birdman in three blockbuster movies. All Riggan was known for was a ridiculous suit. Although he’s left the character behind, the gravelly voice still rings in his ears questioning his every move. We all have those voices.

Birdman doesn’t pull any punches as it skewers both the film and theatre industry. Going through the rolodex of Hollywood actors tied up playing superheros gets laughably longer while these superhero movies increase exponentially in strength. It is great casting that Edward Norton plays the character (Mike Shiner) that comes in because all of the big name actors are involved in superhero movies.

I cannot express how happy I am that Edward Norton backed out of being The Hulk for the decade-long commitment Marvel takes for The Avengers. Norton deserves credit for not Scrooge McDucking through the mountains of money The Hulk would have garnered. In that case, it would be easy being green. Since Edward Norton is such a phenomenal actor, his bank account won’t suffer too much.

Keaton and Norton

Birdman wouldn’t be the same without Edward Norton. The acting in the entire movie is elevated thanks to Edward Norton’s unpredictable, chaotic energy as Mike Shiner. The movie is cemented in the chemistry between Edward Norton and Michael Keaton. Make no mistake, Birdman is not flawless. The first and second acts are terrific, but the story starts to unwind in the third act. While the daring nature of the director is exceptional, it’s also responsible for the reprehensible way it ended. With awful CGI sprinkled throughout the third act, it really appeared as if Inarritu had no idea how to end the movie.

I won’t reveal the ending, but it is unspeakably bad. Whatever the reason, it’s not justifiable.

Fortunately, there’s a near perfect 80-90 minutes of Birdman that will allow you to tolerate the rest of the 2-hour runtime. If you haven’t already watched Birdman, this is the movie you want to see out of the handful of other Oscar contenders in theaters. Not only is this a great movie on your first watch, but it’s so enjoyable (maybe not necessarily entertaining) that there’s more to explore on multiple viewings.


4.5 out of 5 stars

  1. […] Sniper Birdman: 4.5-star review Boyhood: 1.5-star review The Grand Budapest Hotel The Imitation Game: 3-star […]

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