Sunday, September 14, 2008

Did anybody lose their secret spy shit?

I ventured out into the rainiest Chicago day in history (for real; it was a record-setting day) and saw Burn After Reading last night.  The Coen Brothers, as everyone knows, are near the top of my esteem list.  I love the way they can make stunning dramas and hilarious comedies, sometimes in the same film.

Burn After Reading is a very strange movie.  I think liked it, but I think it may take a while to sink in; it may take an additional viewing, perhaps.  The movie is peopled with idiots, sad-sacks, and jackasses.  Everyone has his or her major defect, and the plot involves watching this ragtag group of losers spiral downward.  

On the surface, the movie is about a couple of gym employees who discover a CD filled with what they think is secret spy shit (Brad Pitt is hilarious in this role, and he uses the word shit with great frequency and skill.)  Frances McDormand is, as always, excellent as well. They try to blackmail John Malkovich, a recently fired CIA analyst, and everything goes downhill from there.  Malkovich is very funny and very angry, and not a line of his goes without the f-bomb.

George Clooney and Tilda Swinton, enemies in Michael Clayton, play two extremely unpleasant people having an extremely unpleasant affair.  Their story gets wrapped up with the story of the CD, and again, it is all downhill from there.  Two higher-ups in the CIA pop up every now and then and try to figure out what is going on, and their confusion mirrors the audience's, to hilarious effect.

This is a dark, dark film.  The previews play up the screwball comedy aspect, but be prepared: Burn After Reading is a dark-hearted and grim undertaking, and it has a couple of shocking scenes of gruesome and unexpected violence.  Oh, it is very funny as well, but the Coen Brothers are not content to play the film as a straight comedy.

In the end, I think the movie presents some of the same observations about society that No Country for Old Men presents, but the package is very, very different.


At 10:38 PM, Blogger undulatingorb posited...

I am also waiting for it to sink in a bit before deciding what I think of it. I liked it, but...I suppose I was expecting more of the screwball comedy, or more of my own investment in the characters. While Brad Pitt was very good, I think I liked George Clooney's performance a little better. But, I think J.K. Simmons may have stolen the movie. I also wondered whether John Malkovich and Richard Jenkins talked about Illinois on set.


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