Birdman ★★★★½

Birdman opens with a frenetic flourish of energy, a refreshing and provocative typographic introduction and a kinetic foreshadowing of the ride it’s about to take us on.

Technically, the film is a masterpiece. It’s akin to watching the tightest live set by musicians at the height of their craft, complete with unexpected improvisational bursts and a demonstration of complete mastery of technique. One can argue that some of the lofty effects sequences involving Keaton are not up to today’s standard for CGI, but I think that’s entirely the point - Nothing about the work of Iñarritu and Lubezki feels accidental or unintentional.

The ambitious, un-cut approach to telling a seamless story never feels cloying or tiresome, because there’s actually quite a bit of room to breathe in how its structured. There’s a real tempo to the story, and the level of planning and orchestration required in capturing everything just right, at just the right moment, is staggering. And the beauty of the unexpected, where the camera actually reaches stasis in several moments, is always beautiful. The percussive score that drives this beast is impressive, especially for its intrinsic relationship with what’s unfolding on-screen - it feels at one with the visuals and not a support mechanism, weaving in and out of the actions onscreen fluidly.

This is real art on display, poetic and captivating, and even in its absurd surrealist moments, it remains shockingly grounded. An incredible ensemble cast is what ultimately allows this film to be what it is. It’s hilarious at times, but never afraid to take us to incredibly dark and sad places even as it’s making us laugh. Its characters (mostly Norton and Keaton) drift between the polar coordinates of emotion and ego so effortlessly. But art is often as much in the storytelling as it is in the story itself, and I keep coming back to Iñarritu’s expertise as a filmmaker and the originality and craft of the story as what truly resonates with me.

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