In moviemaking maverick Wes Anderson's scintillating comedy-drama, Ralph Fiennes plays Mr Gustave H, the endlessly resourceful concierge of the 1930s Grand Budapest Hotel. When he is framed for the murder of a dowager who bequeathed him a priceless painting, Gustave and his trusted lobby boy Zero (Tony Revelori) are forced to flee to prove his innocence. Anderson's pleasantly warped view of the world works brilliantly in the surreal surroundings of Mitteleurope and Fiennes' ebullient performance is a sheer joy.
F Murray Abraham
Grand wizard of whimsy Wes Anderson finds the perfect match in this darkly surreal tale set in the off-kilter Mitteleuropean country of Zubrowka.
Ralph Fiennes is resplendent as Monsieur Gustave H, the imperious concierge of The Grand Hotel Budapest, a wedding cake of a building that looms over dark alpine valleys from its mountainous perch.
Gustave is the fixer par excellence with an eye for detail (he is horrified by the nail vanish worn by one of his esteemed guests) and an eye for the ladies (he happily beds dowager duchesses who cannot help but fall in love with him).
One of these is 84-year-old widow Madame Celine Villeneuve Desgoff und Taxis (Swinton) who has premonitions of death and - sure enough - dies of strychnine poisoning while her vile offspring - led by devious son Dmitri (Brody) - greedily circle around her inheritance.
The chief spoil is the priceless painting A Boy Holding An Apple which - to her grasping kids' fury - is left to the genuinely grieving Gustave for room services rendered.
However, before he can sell it to spend on "whisky and whores", he finds himself accused of murdering Madame Celine, a false charge engineered by Dmitri to make sure he gets his hands on the painting.
Anderson, inspired by the Viennese writer Stefan Zweig, has crafted his most richly realised film yet, a ravishing spectacle supremely served by a plot that doesn't have you groaning.
Fiennes is quite simply superb, deliciously channelling a vain British Army officer through a camp luvvie with the occasional spluttered F-bomb thrown into dialogue beautifully rendered by Anderson.
His familiar repertory company provide sustaining cameos, particularly Harvey Keitel as an old lag who teams up with Gustave and Jude Law as a posh Brit traveller who teases the story out of Gustave's treasured lobby boy Zero Moustafa
Newcomer Tony Revelori makes a proficient debut as the young Moustafa while the character also gives Anderson the chance to land some subtle blows about European racism and the rise of the Nazis.
Foremost, though, is the stunningly retro look of the movie with Anderson demonstrating a sure knack for model work (the funicular serving the hotel is a work of art) and the general atmosphere of Grimm-like otherwordliness.
Time to check out (or into) The Grand Budapest Hotel.