Starting with "Amores Perros," it has been obvious that Alejandro González Iñárritu is fascinated by the darkest corners of the human heart. It is easy to imagine that is the sum total of his gift as an artist is inflicting misery on these people he creates, but that's a misreading of his work. Yes, "21 Grams" and "Babel" and "Biutiful" are movies in which misery is as omnipresent as oxygen, but there is also proof that he believes in redemption and mercy and moments of grace, or at least the struggle towards those things. He has never found the balance between the light and the dark with quite the same skill as he does in his new film "Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)," and the result is one of the most thrilling pieces of film craft that I've seen so far this year.
Iñárritu worked with co-writers Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo to polish one of the year's densest, busiest screenplays. Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) begins the movie alone in his dressing room at the St. James Theater on Broadway. He is clad only in his tighty-whiteys, and he levitates a few feet above the ground. In his head, the voice of Birdman speaks, lambasting Riggan for the choices he's made, the choices he's about to make. It is a bold image, and sedate in a way that no other moment in the film is sedate. "Birdman" is not a quiet film, and everything about the work that Iñárritu does here is practically shouting in your face.