Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading is the latest in the long line or quirky and original films made by the Coen brothers, and hot off their Oscar win for No Country for Old Men. To call Burn After Reading a spy movie does not properly define it, but to call the film simply a comedy undersells it. Like most of the Coen brothers movies there is no simple way to categorize Burn After Reading.

The film begins with Osbourne, a CIA analyst who is told he is being demoted and therefore quits, his wife Katie reacts adversely to this news and chalks up another reason for divorce. Meanwhile, Harry is a ladies’ man who hides his many girlfriends from his wife, and is a paranoid US Marshall who thinks he is being watched. In another section of Washington D.C. Linda and Chad work at Hard Bodies gym; Linda is obsessed with changing her life by getting plastic surgery to change her body, and Chad is blissfully Chad. At the gym one day Chad & Linda stumble on a CD of Osbourne’s memoirs and financial info and make the mistaken assumption that it is “secret intelligence shit” and decide to offer it up to Osbourne thinking that they will get a good Samaritan reward. However, this backfires and they instead try blackmailing Osbourne which is where the plot gets even more complex than it already was.

Hands down the best thing about this movie is Chad played by Brad Pitt. He steals the show. Chad is just so blissfully Chad that is almost beyond description, he exists in his own world. I really can’t describe him to justice – just go see the movie.

However, some of the best lines in the film are given to a more minor character, the CIA supervisor played by JK Simmons. At at least two points in the movie Osbourne’s former boss must go to the supervisor to report on the oddities they’ve noticed since Osbourne quit – namely that Linda and Chad contacted Osbourne and then went to the Russian embassy. No one at the CIA can figure out what is going on or how this random group of people is involved and JK is the voice of that confusion.

If some of the Coen’s audience is new and jumped into their movies at No Country for Old Men they will be surprised by Burn After Reading, this movie is the old school, traditional Coen’s where the Oscar winning film is the mature side of the Coen’s. However, no matter how different their films may be they are all worth watching.

Director’s & Writer’s: Joel & Ethan Coen
Harry: George Clooney
Linda: Frances McDormand
Chad: Brad Pitt
Osbourne: John Malkovitch
Katie: Tilda Swinton
CIA Supervisor: JK Simmons

CIA Superior: What did we learn?
CIA Officer: Uh...
CIA Superior: Not to do it again. I don't know what the fuck it is we *did*, but...

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