Monday, 20 October 2008

Burn After Reading: Movie Review

Burn After Reading: Movie Review

Rating: 7/10
Cast: George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt
Director: Ethan and Joel Coen
After the praise heaped on No Country for Old Men and its clean sweep of the Oscars, it'll be no surprise to some that the Coen brothers have returned to the familiar territory of screwball.
Burn After Reading is a film about various people working in the Intelligence spy sector who, to be blunt, seem to be severely lacking on the, erm, intelligence front.
At the film's beginning, John Malkovich's CIA analyst Osbourne Cox is being fired from the department he works in because of his drinking problems. As revenge, Cox plans to write a tell all memoir which would embarrass the CIA.
However, things aren't looking good for Cox - his wife's planning to divorce him to run off with her lover Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) and steals a copy of his memoir as part of the divorce case.
But as ever, things don't run smoothly.
The disc winds up in the hands of Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) who works at the local gym along with Chad (Brad Pitt).
Litzke's a desperate woman - turned down for funding for cosmetic surgery, she decides the only way to change her life is to blackmail Cox with the disc and so she enlists Chad's help.
To give away much more would ruin the world the Coens have once again created.
They're masters at bringing characters to life and exaggerating some of their crazier tics so that they seem perfectly plausible.

Pitt's Chad character is slightly detached from reality and when it comes to meeting Cox to blackmail him, he turns up in a suit - on his bicycle. Clooney's Pfarrer is convinced there is someone following him and Malkovich's Cox spends most of his time wandering about in a dressing gown and getting angrier.
There are some moments of violence in Burn After Reading which really do shock - having been put at ease with the idiocy of some of the cast throughout the film, the Coens' dose of brutal reality stuns you when it bursts onto the screen.

The one weak link in this cast is Tilda Swinton as Cox's wife - she is underused in the other woman role - but that gripe aside, Burn After Reading is silly, dramatic fun.
It's up there with some of their finer farces - O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Fargo and the much under-appreciated Hudsucker Proxy.
It also has a last line which will either frustrate you if you've not enjoyed the film - or will make you nod your head in agreement at the absurdity of what you've just witnessed.

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