Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) is a silver-tongued petty criminal eager to make his escape from the chain gang in Mississippi, serving a term of hard labour. Still shackled together, McGill and fellow convicts, the simple Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) and maladjusted Pete (John Turturro), he makes a dash for freedom and embark on a mission to recover a fortune in buried treasure, but the trio get entangled in a series of unexpected and sometimes bizarre adventures along the way, with lawman Cooley (Daniel Von Bargden) in pursuit.

An odyssey full of surprises

It's 1937, and three convicts escape from a southern chain gang. Ulysses (George Clooney) is a vain, fast talking philosopher who models himself after Clark Gable; Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) are his not so bright offsiders. Ulysses claims to know where a stash of money is hidden, and the ungainly trio set off in search of fortune as well as freedom, along the way encountering a clutch of colorful characters, including a bank robber, a musician, a one-eyed bible salesman (John Goodman), and an old-time politician (Charles Durning). In fact, their odyssey is full of surprises.

The Coen Brothers delightful new film is derived from The Odyssey but its title is a cinematic reference – it's the name of the film pitched by comedy director John Sullivan, Joel McCrea, to a couple of unenthusiastic studio heads in Preston Sturges' famous comedy, Sullivan's Travels. O' Brother Where Art Thou? isn't consistently hilarious, but it's so original, so well acted by all concerned, and so inventive – a Ku Klux Klan rally makes for an impressive set-piece – and so beautifully made that it's a constant delight. The three leads give wonderful performances – but everyone's good, including Holly Hunter as Ulysses' long-lost wife. And Roger Deakins' widescreen photography, with its unusual colour pallette, is a constant joy.


Watch 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?'

Wednesday 22 December, 9:35pm on SBS World Movies / NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand

USA, 2000
Genre: Comedy, Adventure, Action
Language: English
Director: Joel Coen
Starring: John Turturro, Holly Hunter, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, George Clooney

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