Wes Anderson's latest offering is The Grand Budapest Hotel, a 1930s-set caper which tells the tale of devoted concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). The film - a story within a story within a story - sees Gustave, along with lobby boy Zero Moustafa (newcomer Tony Revolori), become embroiled in inheritance tussles and a murder investigation after the death of his 84-year-old benefactor and lover, Madame D (Tilda Swinton).
It is testament to Anderson's talents that he has assembled a hugely impressive supporting cast: Tom Wilkinson plays an author who, in 1985, recounts time spent at the titular hotel in 1968. In 1968, and played by Jude Law, he meets an older Zero (F. Murray Abraham) who in turn recounts time spent working as a lobby boy at the hotel in 1932.
And so the central story begins, with the likes of Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Adrian Brody, and Harvey Keitel all taking parts; Bill Murray and Owen Wilson appear for about one minute, Bob Balaban 30 seconds.
Fiennes, an underrated comic actor (see also In Bruges), is brilliant in the lead role, delivering Anderson's deadpan dialogue with relish and providing plenty of laughs along the way. Gustave is prissy and superior but ultimately very likeable.
As with previous Anderson films, The Grand Budapest Hotel has been meticulously put together: each frame is impeccably detailed, decorated with the kind of sets, costumes and props that have defined his work.
There are plenty of visual gags to keep the eye entertained, while the film has energy and pace, sweeping its audience though the alleyways, train stations, monasteries and prisons of the fictional eastern European town of Zubrowka.
One repeated criticism of Anderson is, by concentrating on design, he puts 'feelings' to one side. However F Murray Abraham, acting as the film's narrator, provides a number of touching moments and besides, when movie watching is such a joy, who cares?
It may not reach the heady heights of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, but this is arguably Anderson's best work since. It is a delight, leaving you feeling warm and fuzzy - the film equivalent of sitting by a roaring fire in a dressing gown, a mug of hot chocolate in hand.
RATING: Four out of five stars.