"Birdman is an outrageous film, one that lays waste to all the rules of conventional cinema and forges them anew"

Every once in a while, a film comes along that reminds you why the medium is so wonderful, and that even after a century, cinema still has the power to delight and surprise. Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest, Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), is one of those films. A darkly hilarious work of virtuosic genius that proves Iñárritu's ability from a technical standpoint but also showing he has a strong ear for comedy, something that wasn't clear from his bleaker early films (Babel, Biutiful).

Shot is what appears to be one single take—although it's actually stitched together with some clever digital jiggery-pokery—Birdman follows failing actor Riggan Thomson as he tries to resurrect his career by putting on a Broadway play. Riggan (played brilliantly by Michael Keaton) is unable to shake the ghost of the role that made him a star, the ubiquitous Birdman inhabits his mind constantly, taunting him and highlighting his failures. Also along for the ride (and this definitely feels like a ride) is his troubled daughter Sam (Emma Stone), producer and friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis), and co-stars in the play Lesley (Naomi Watts) and Laura (Andrea Riseborough).

Approaching opening night, Riggan's play doesn't look set to excite but the last minute addition of volatile method actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) to the cast sets the play alight, and with it the film. It's a fantastic piece of casting, Norton and Keaton work off each other brilliantly as Shiner's erratic and often dangerous personality threatens to upstage the entire production.

Birdman's plot is all over the place and has faced harsh criticism from some circles. The film stands up to this by presenting itself in such a unique and exciting way. The camera floats around the bowels of the theatre, sometimes in real time, sometimes skipping forwards hours or days in a single moment. The single take, and the film's intimate use of space make it feel like a play. As the tension mounts, the drama at times becomes so intense that it feels as if the actors might simply give up, storm out and slam the door causing the entire set to collapse.

The success of Birdman hinges on the fact that it elegantly balances this intense drama with wild humour that is sometimes audacious and sometimes subtle. By following the actors around the space in one fluid movement, the world is made to feel incredibly real despite the film's tendency towards outlandish fantasy. In one scene, Keaton's protagonist embarrassingly marches through Times Square in his underpants, in a more conventional movie this might appear trite and a little forced, but here it is impossible not to be in stitches.

Birdman is an outrageous film, one that lays waste to all the rules of conventional cinema and forges them anew. The plot may be full of holes and the premise more than a little silly, but these foibles are easily looked past. The fantastic performances, technical genius, and hilariously black script make Birdman unmissable. Cinema has never been this exciting.