Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, Frances McDormond
Director: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Not unless you're a fan of theirs and have followed their careers closely can you understand that Burn After Reading isn't a misstep on the part of the Brothers Coen, it's possibly the exact thing they wanted to do after the sweeping Oscar success of the melancholic No Country For Old Men. The new film is a screwball comedy that reminds us that they're still pranksters rather than players.
In Burn After Reading, a disc containing the memoirs of recently-dismissed, mid-level CIA operative Osbourne Cox (played by John Malkovich) lands in the hands of two bone-headed gym employees - plastic surgery-obsessed singleton Linda (played by Frances McDormond) and soft-spoken airhead Chad (played by Brad Pitt). After a failed attempt at blackmailing the author, the pair show up with the disc at the Russian embassy hoping for a quick pay-off. Meanwhile, Cox's wife Katie (played by Tilda Swinton) dabbles in a little philandering with law-enforcement officer Harry (played by George Clooney), a serial Internet dater who is also seeing Linda.
Even though the film is no match for some of their better, more smarter work, Burn After Reading is still rich in pedigree and comes with many of the oddities we've come to expect in the Coen Brothers' films. Quirky characters, deadpan dialogue, and unplanned violence - it's all here, in addition to a handful of totally unexpected moments - like the surprising fate of Brad Pitt's character Chad, and that unbelievably outrageous gift that Clooney's character Harry has been diligently putting together for his wife.
It's little things like these that make this film an enjoyable watch. I'm going with three out of five for Ethan and Joel Coen's Burn After Reading. It's a one-time watch that delivers an easy laugh; if you don't expect too much, you won't be disappointed.
Rating: 3 / 5 (Good)
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