International Writers Magazine:Film
Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen
Written by Ethan and Joel Coen
Starring George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda
Swinton and Brad Pitt
Samuel James Richards
review could be summed up in seven words.
The Coen Brothers have done it again.
that would not do justice to the, dare I say, masterpiece, that
is Burn After Reading. Not content to rest on their laurels, the
talented sibling duo responsible for classics such as Fargo (1996),
O Brother Where Art Thou (2000), and more recently No Country For
Old Men (2007), have made yet another superb film, one that definitely
deserves more than seven words.
The basic premise
of Burn After Reading is that within everyone, beneath our ordered
and controlled exteriors, there lies a buffoon, waiting for an opportunity
to take over. All the characters in this film are fools in their own
right, from George Clooneys childish womaniser to Frances McDormands
surgery-obsessed gym employee. The coincidental chaos begins with a
CIA agents memoirs being found by two opportunistic yet completely
inept blackmailers, the ensuing events watched by the government with
It is hard to imagine that the cast of the Coen Brothers latest
film didnt have a good time while shooting it. The script must
have been like an adventure playground to a talented actor, with all
those involved giving immense performances. John Malkovich is tragically
frustrated as Osbourne Cox, a government analyst with no social skills
and aggressive tendencies boiling just beneath the surface. Tilda Swinton
plays his icy wife, concerned only with the superficial and disinterested
in her husbands problems.
Although it would be impossible to claim that one of the star-studded
cast outshines the rest, Brad Pitts idiotic personal trainer,
Chad Feldheimer, is particularly amusing to watch. His laughable hairstyle,
juvenile enthusiasm and embarrassing foolishness combine together with
comic brilliance. The scene in which he attempts to collect the ransom
from Malkovitch is exceptionally funny, as Chad tries to appear mysterious
by constantly repeating "Osboure Cox" in a raspy voice, leading
to Malkovitch punching him in the face.
violence displayed in the film, although graphic and vicious, is
darkly hilarious. People are shot, hacked to pieces, almost run
down by cars, and yet this all adds to the comedy. The image of
John Malkovitch in his underwear, chasing a man whilst manically
wielding an axe is oddly amusing, especially as the film then cuts
to a scene where a CIA agent relates the event in complete deadpan
to his superior.
It is not just the
actors that make Burn After Reading a visual treat. All the pieces
of the puzzle are perfectly chosen and placed. The films score
and its direction are mockingly reminiscent of spy thrillers such as
the Bourne films, striking a great contrast with the characters
bumbling actions. The script is flawlessly honed, subtle in places and
equally outrageous in others.
I was very impressed with the versatility that the Coen brothers displayed
in making this film almost simultaneously with their highly acclaimed
No Country For Old Men. Whereas No Country ... is dark,
disturbing and quite difficult to get your head around at points, Burn
After Reading is amusing and easily comprehendible. However, that
is not to say that it is clear-cut and simply resolved, a factor that
will turn some viewers off the movie. It is understandable for some
to find this film pointless and over-the-top, but then the Coen Brothers
probably werent aiming to make everyone happy.
I dont normally find comedy a genre that I really get on with,
as it seems a lot of Hollywoods fast-food trashy films fall into
this category. But instead of being another "ethnic-mismatch crime-caper
5" Burn After Reading is an interesting and entertaining
film, that will produce more than just a mild grin. In this time of
economic turmoil and strife, as banks collapse and share-prices take
a nose-dive, make a smart investment and purchase a ticket for this
film. Theres a small chance you wont like it, but the Coen
Brothers deserve your money regardless.
james richards Oct 31st 2008
<shl60123 at port.ac.uk
Sam is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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