Burn After Reading – DVD Review
By Jeff Swindoll Dec 22, 2008, 9:05 GMT
When a disc filled with some of the CIA’s most irrelevant secrets gets in the hands of two determined, but dim-witted, gym employees, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. But since blackmail is a trade better left for the experts, events soon spiral out of everyone\'s and anyone\'s control, resulting in a non-stop series of hilarious encounters! ...more
“Report back to me when… I don’t know, when it makes sense.”
The Coen Brothers strike gold once again with this dark comedy about the world of espionage. A game cast goes through the paces, but not all of them are still breathing or still sane by the time the credits roll.
Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a C.I.A. analyst who has just been demoted because of his drinking, so he quits. He goes home to wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) to give her the bad news. What he doesn’t know is that Katie was planning on divorcing him and his lack of employment only cements the notion in her mind. She consults an attorney who advises her to get as much information on Osborne before he wises up.
Osborne also doesn’t know that Katie is having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) who works for the Treasury department who is also running around on his wife.
Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) works at the local gym but age is taking its toll on her body so she’s trying to get some plastic surgery. However, the insurance company won’t foot the bill for elective surgeries and she’s distraught. Her shy boss Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins) has a crush on her and tries to tell her that he likes her the way she is but she’s determined to get the surgeries.
Personal trainer Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) find’s the disc with Osborne’s information on it, when the lawyer’s secretary leaves it in the locker room of the gym, and thinks that it’s some high level intelligence. He calls Osborne late at night to try and blackmail him when Linda sees a way to get the cash for her surgeries.
Osborne doesn’t react well and is even worse when Chad shows up to collect the money. Needless to say the payday doesn’t happen and Linda and Chad take the disc to the Russian embassy to try and get some money out of them.
In the meantime, Katie has changed the locks at the house and dropped all of Osborne’s belongings on the front porch. These events will cumulate in death for a few and not many will go away unscathed.
Burn After Reading is a comedy of sorts that leans towards the black. The Coen Brothers wrote it with specific people in mind to play the parts. That most of the characters are complete idiots might make the Coen’s actor friends think twice about accepting such roles.
The film’s trailer plays up the comedy, but by film’s twists and turns bank toward the dark side of human nature. The Coen Brothers are masters of the odd and Burn After Reading full of odd characters.
Not one of them really acts very intelligent and only end up digging themselves deeper into their various messes. I will say that Burn After Reading might be a hair more satisfying than their previous film, No Country for Old Men, in that it has a beginning, middle, and end.
Country had several unanswered questions that were left hanging when the credits rolled. You don’t have that with this film and everyone’s plot has been firmly put to bed. All of the actors bring their talents to their roles and it’s a pleasure to see them strut their stuff, it’s just that there are not too many likeable characters here.
Everyone has their own agenda and hiding secrets. That might just be the nature of the beast since the film takes place in Washington DC.
Burn After Reading is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Special features include the 4 minute “Finding the Burn” that goes behind-the-scenes with the Coen’s, Malkovich, Clooney, Swinton, McDormand, and Jenkins. The 12-minute “DC Insiders Run Amuck” is a standard making of featurette and features the same interviewees.
The 3 minute “Welcome Back, George” is about Clooney returning to play another idiot for the Coen’s.
Burn After Reading is a good film and features some great acting from all the stars. You might not expect the way the plot goes but it’s a fun, but dark, ride getting there. No Country for Old Men won all the awards, but Burn After Reading is a film that’s just as good.