15 September 2008

Burn After Reading

There are filmmakers and actors who struggle after winning Oscar. Then there are some that everything they do is recognized by the Academy. The Coen Brothers just won multiple awards for their film No Country for Old Men last year. A lot was riding on their newest film Burn After Reading. I am happy to say that they made yet another great film. For this film, the brothers go back to a Fargo-esque, Big Lebowski style dark comedy. It just won the brothers their first number one debut spot for any of their films. A lot of that has to be attributed to the star power in this film with three Academy Award winners and two nominees, plus J.K. Simmons. I went with my wife and sister on my birthday. I felt bad for my sister because the group of girls sitting next to her had no idea what kind of film they were getting into. They were there for Brad Pitt. It reminded me a bit of the crowd that I saw Stranger Than Fiction with. They did not know it was not a typical Will Ferrell. These girls were not privy to the Coen Brothers style of movie.

The opening scene takes place in CIA HQ. We see John Malkovich getting let go from the CIA by CIA Officer, played by David Rasche. Osborne Cox, Malkovich, makes a scene and the laughs begin. From here, we meet the rest of this ensemble cast of misfits. Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand play trainers at Hardbodies, Chad and Linda. Linda is convinced she needs to have multiple cosmetic surgeries in order to look the part. Chad is just a dimwitted athletic trainer. After the custodian of the gym finds a disc of secret CIA files, Chad and Linda try to blackmail Osborne, Osborne Cox. At this time, Cox’s wife Katie, played by Tilda Swinton, is having an affair with George Clooney’s ex-bodyguard character Harry Pfarrer. After Osborne refuses to pay for the disc, Linda and Chad go to the Russian embassy. This gets back to the CIA and J.K. Simmons plays the Superior to Rasche’s Officer. The banter between these two characters had me in stitches. Now the CIA is watching them all, but they have no idea what is going on.

In the same vein as Fargo and The Big Lebowski, the characters get involved in more than they know. The storylines get crossed, the characters confused. As the story continues and unfolds, more and more hilarious misfortunes and turns ensue. Burn After Reading has many quotable lines as do the other two mentioned above. In the end, we are left with a great scene in CIA HQ between JK and Rasche. It is my favorite scene of the film. This was a fantastic film on all accounts. All the acting, writing and directing were top notch. Does it stand a chance to make it to the big show in February? Probably not. Verdict: It is totally worth seeing if you like the Coen’s films. If you don’t, then you need to see this one anyway. Why not? Give them another chance. Burn After Reading only puts pressure on the brothers next venture. We can only hope for another great piece of film work from these two.

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