Even if the Coens has been consistently making superior quality movies for twenty years, I’d say that their names were only shown in the map of many after the delightful success of “No Country for Old Men” Their immediate follow-up to that success was therefore was quite anticipated for not only their names, for they had said that this film would be their and George Clooney’s final “idiot trilogy” after “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Intolerable Cruelty” Also featuring Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and one of the Coen’s wife (I don’t know which), Frances McDormand, this satirical take on political secret-service is a slow burning but fun tale to watch.
The resulting film is however, as with all the Coen’s film, one that if not unexpected, was at least different.
Tonally, “Burn After Reading” is more akin to “Fargo” than any other Coens’ that I’ve seen and no, I can’t really point the resemblance between the two. It was just there, ever lingered beneath the surface, felt.
The nature of multi-layered, plot-entwined “Burn After Reading” makes it difficult to surmised the plot in simple words. There’s this one CIA agent, Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) who was being let go, which enrages his wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton) who was having an affair with once a secret-agent, Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) who also dates a sour Gym employee, Linda Litzkie (Frances McDormand) after a one-two click from an Internet dating service. Meanwhile, Linda – who was not so confident with her looks – and her co-worker, a gum-chewing, buffout bozo, Chad (Brad Pitt) found the Cox’s memoar, and mistakenly thought that it was contains some national secret worth to sell for a hefty sums of money. But of course, reading this alone won’t do the film a justice for there’re still so many layers tangled within. Served with Coens’ antics of delivery and story-telling, this film is at least worth a peek from those who claimed their love on films.
This film could be well categorized as a comedy with a touch of thriller, or a thriller with a touch of comedy. Although not nearly as extreme as the wood-chipper scene in “Fargo” – I was cringed with horror, but at the same time, I was laughing at it. Classic – some was good enough and most was worth a chuckle but the best scenes, best lines, in my opinion was uttered by CIA’s superior (J.K.Simmons). He was only for a few short scenes but each one of them is hilarious.
George Clooney was quite comfortable here even if it could be said that his role was rather out of his usual character. He has done it before in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” anyway – and much much funnier there if I may add. Tilda Swinton is in her usual cold and no no-sense she was quite capable of, as well as John Malkovich who is well, John Malkovich. Frances McDormand is as usual, perfectly casted – in fact, I hadn’t seen a film of her when she was not perfectly casted. Brad Pitt, on the other hand, my, he is always a fine actor, a charming by nature, and cool and convincing without really trying. But here, I’m quite sure that his “Chad” in a real life won’t had the words “charming” and “cool” attached as his adjectives. In fact, I think this is where you’ll see another dimension of Brad Pitt that you had never seen before. Well, at least I hadn’t.
Coen brothers always has this distinct style of story-telling – again, can’t really pin-point on what and how does their story-telling style is distinct. It is just there. Felt – and “Burn After Reading” is no different. If you want to know what I mean by distinct, wait for the first scene of George Clooney and Brad Pitt together. You’ll know when it’s there, and that’s what I mean with distinctive style of them. A matter-of-fact, slam-in-your-face, and jaw-dropping story-telling.
My rating: ***1/2 / **** – Not the best Coens’ that I’ve seen, but heck, even Coens’ mediocre flick is superior to many.