By Caleb Bobrycki
Image Courtesy: Universal Studios
Point, Not Plot
When a group of sneaky communists steal a famous actor from Capitol Studios, the filmmakers struggle to make ends meet without their beloved moneymaker, fumbling to to get him back. Josh Brolin leads this all-star cast in a very thought provoking social commentary on government, a seeming love-letter to old Hollywood, directed by the Coen brothers.
I understand why some people walked away upset with this film. I fear, though, that many simply misunderstood it, and am very curious to see how Hail, Caesar! will be spoken of in the coming years, after repeated viewings; hopefully it's just ahead of its time, like the Coens’ earlier O Brother, Where Art Thou? This latest picture was so confident in what it was trying to accomplish, that it didn't attempt to connect with its audience at all, it's true weakness. I heard enough complaints about it before I even went in, so I was very prepared to look past story arc or character development and listen to the message of the film. I advise audiences to watch out for the point, not the plot: in a world of “lefts” and “rights”, sometimes many struggle to make heads or tails of politics. This movie intelligently asks some questions, never seeming to take a stand.
The One Word We Cannot Seem to Remember
There's a scene at the end of the movie in which the Communists ironically decided to support their leaders, which is “feeding the beast” with capital, the exact thing they accused Capitol Studios of doing. And whether it's in conversation with one another, business relationships, or church committees, human beings are really good at pointing out error in someone else when we, ourselves, struggle with that same thing.
Now, I'm not sure if Joel and Ethan Coen intentionally proclaimed a Protestant message of faith alone in Christ alone, by grace alone. In fact, I’m quite sure they did not. But I do think that that message painfully obvious. There is a scene at the end of the movie in which George Clooney's character is dressed in a Roman soldier’s costume, a representation of capitalism, and recites his line about how Jesus Christ was the only person who didn't judge partially between Roman soldier or peasant, i.e. capitalist or communist. Whether you are left or right, Jesus Christ is the one man who sees past our imperfections and flaws and looks at the heart. It is no mistake that his character finishes his line by saying that faith is what we all desperately need and lack. It’s also no mistake that the word “faith” is the only one he couldn’t remember. That seems to be something we all tend to forget about.
On that note, I'd like to leave you with a little phrase: disinterested benevolence. This precious idea comes from Jonathan Edwards, which states that true Christian character is when we are disinterested in our own selfish gain and are purely interested in benevolence and good works toward our fellow neighbor. Faith frees us from arguing our point of view, whether left or right, because it is centered on a man named Jesus of Nazareth, the only one who ever impartially looked at all capitalists and communists.