Something very exciting happened this last weekend. It happened only once this year, and, if everything goes to plan, it will happen an unprecedented three times next year. Yes, last Friday, the incredible Coen Brothers released another movie: Burn After Reading.
Everything about the movie showed promise: a great cast, great filmmakers, even a great poster. We saw it on Friday night, and we were not disappointed. I had been looking forward to it for quite a while, and was a bit worried that I would get a bit too hyped about it and end up disappointed. Not so.
The movie is a ensemble set up, but mainly follows two gym workers (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) as they attempt to blackmail the CIA into giving them money for what they think is classified information they have stumbled upon. The two bumble around, eventually going to Russians to try selling the information there. Everything falls apart as all the characters paths cross again and again. Throughout, plot lines of lost love, divorce, broken dreams, self-obsession and alcoholism are woven together, all treated with the typical Coen style of holding nothing sacred and willingness to send anything up for a gag, laugh or plot point.
It had a bit of a slow start, but that didn’t last long. The cast worked very well together, especially Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand. Their dialogue came off perfectly, and with Pitt as a puffy haired, overly peppy personal trainer, it was easy to forget that he is actually 45 years old.
John Malkovich is his usual angry, yelling self, and pulls of his out of work, alcoholic, ex-spook of a character to perfection. George Clooney is a neurotic, self-obsessed, and chronically unfaithful government man. In short, everyone in the cast gave excellent performances.
One of the things I love about the Coen Brothers, is that (and you might consider this a spoiler) they have no problem killing anyone in their movies. They have this perfect ability to build up completely likable characters that the audience gets attached to, then killing them off without so much as wincing. What’s crazy about it is that when they do kill someone off, they manage to do so without slowing the story or even making the audience sad.
As with all Coen movies, the bit part characters make the movie. The man who pulled it all together in this one is J.K. Simmons. Playing an unnamed CIA supervisor, his few brief scenes were some of the funniest in the whole movie.
It won’t ever be the cult hit that The Big Lebowski is. It lacks a strong central character for that sort of fandom. However it was, in my opinion, the funniest thing that Joel and Ethan have made since creating The Dude.
Anyone who has seen The Ladykillers will not be surprised at how everything wraps up. Even so, nothing is boring, and the ride is as fun as ever.
I definitely recommend this one.