Sunday, September 21, 2008

Burn After Reading

DAN - Burn After Reading is a comedic pseudo-spy film from writers and directors Joel and Ethan Coen. When the memoirs of a disgruntled CIA employee end up in the hands of deviously dim-witted gym workers, the situation quickly spins out of everyone’s control.

The Coen brothers earned four Oscars for last year’s No Country for Old Men, including Best Picture and Best Director. Their choice to follow such a film with a farcical comedy was interesting, but I was concerned. The Coens’ last two comedies, Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers, weren’t exactly up to par with their previous efforts.

Fortunately, the brothers have managed to whip up something special again.

Though the cinematography and setting (Washington, D.C.) didn’t initially thrill me, the characters and plot won me over. The cast consists of some of Hollywood’s most highly-regarded actors in less than flattering roles. John Malkovich’s short-tempered performance is a treat, and George Clooney nicely rounds out his “trilogy of idiots” with the Coen brothers.

Carter Burwell’s boisterous score stands out nicely, and it sets a tone for the film and its unduly pompous characters. In Joel Coen’s words, the music is “something important sounding but absolutely meaningless.”

For those of you who were upset with the conclusion of No Country for Old Men, this one doesn’t require quite as much soul searching. If you enjoyed Burn After Reading, I recommend Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, both from the Coens’ collection.


STEVE - Burn After Reading is by far one of the most bizarre, screwball, tragicomedy that only could originate from the uncanny minds of the Brothers Coen.

This movie is littered with big name performers like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and J.K. Simmons. All of whom give very unique, comical, and vastly different performances than you’ve seen before. Both Pitt and Clooney are hilarious, Pitt with his gum chewing, uneducated, gym instructor dialogue, and Clooney as the sex-addict, cheating buffoon. But it’s J.K. Simmons, who only appears for 5 minutes of film that brings the house down.

This film is made with expert execution and style, not to mention some terrific dialogue. But even with all of that, I found myself looking at the clock more than once, which isn’t a good thing when the film runs a total time of 96minutes. The issue lies in have to bring together so many different characters that the pacing of the film ultimately suffers.

Though it is by far one of the better ensemble casts that I’ve seen, and is quite comically screwy, Burn After Reading fails (for myself at least) to create an emotional connection with its audience. I’ll give it credit for its smart screenplay, fine cinematography, and first rate performances, but with all the scheming, affairs, and unique basement contraptions, it just didn’t hit home.

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