Debriefing: Burn After Reading

Posted on September 22, 2008. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

The Coen Brothers have hit gold once again. This movie was everything I expected and more! After waiting a week or two to let the crowds die down I decided it was time for the Coen Brothers and their all-star cast to work their magic on me, and boy did they produce. A friend I attended the movie with even commented that they would not only expect a nod or two in their direction during award season, but couldn’t imagine not seeing this movie at least another 2 or 3 times.

Let it be said that this is one of the more humorous movies of the year. And as a warning, if you don’t typically enjoy the Coen Brothers’ humor, then this will not be a movie choice for you. They have assembled an all-star cast that works with each other and plays off each other perfectly. Brad Pitt steals the show with his character Chad. Chad is a typical Ipod junkie, complete with a bike and helmet with attached safety mirror as well as a ton of other quirks. Constantly chewing his gum Chad is not someone to be taken seriously, but he has grand ideas. He is loveable like a puppy, and lights up the screen whenever he enters it. Neurotic Linda, Frances McDormand, is Chad’s coworker and together this team begins to turn DC upside down, and makes John Malovich’s life very unpleasant.

George Clooney, Harry Pfarrer, is a womanizer (on screen that is), and even tries his hand at inventing, and gets involved in a round-about way with Chad and Linda. His ideas are also grand and his lifestyle leaves a chuckle long after the movie has ended. Pfarrer is an interesting character, not too deep but certainly not too shallow either. John Malkovich, Osbourne Cox, is a worn down, disgruntled husband, worker, and citizen in general. To put it politely he has just had enough with the world, and it shows. Like Pitt, Malkovich lights up the screen with his grumbling and anger, but it leaves you with a smile even though Osbourne Cox seems incapable of smiling. It never seems like any of the characters are stretching to make the audience laugh, they all work together smoothly and the laughs just roll out.

The plot is simple, but the irony is huge. Chad and Linda find Cox’s important documents and decide that they can use them to earn a large reward for themselves once they return the documents since they were good Samaritans (keep in mind these documents are not a lost dog, but are seemingly stolen). They are both slightly ignorant and while they mean well, they are certainly not Bonnie & Clyde and their good Samaritan reward quickly turns into a global runaround scheme. The characters seemingly have nothing to do with each other but are so involved in each other’s lives it is simply fascinating. The web that is weaved intrigues the FBI and CIA, and ultimately the entire story moves in circular motion and goes nowhere. But it is good to go nowhere with the Coen Brothers; the path to get nowhere is the most exciting path of all. This cast is outrageous and smooth, and they act unlike themselves and unlike any other characters they have played. Rest assured though, they play these characters well, it can be argued that perhaps they were better in these roles than their typical roles.

Divorce runs rampant throughout the plots of this movie, and superficiality is key to many of the characters. Roles will be reversed and you may never view these actors the same way again, but it’s really all in good fun. You will leave the theatre chuckling over the progression of the story and characters and will chuckle throughout the next week as you remember and understand more and more of the twisted humor the Coen Brothers have provided you. It is amazing how a simple story about simple people becomes so complex but remains simple at the same time. It was one of the more enjoyable movies that have come out in quite some time. Worthwhile if you like DC and Coen humor


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One Response to “Debriefing: Burn After Reading”

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Very good movie indeed. I enjoyed J.K. Simmons’ role in this movie as well, very underrated actor. Just out of curiosity what other Coen Bros. movies might you like/dislike?

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