BURN AFTER READING is one of those movies you only go see if you know or read about it. I cannot even recall seeing a poster or trailer about it. But when the brothers Coen do make something, I am always there to see it. They have already brought us great movies like THE BIG LEBOWSKI or the more recently NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. And with names like George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt, the decision to go was easily made. (Also I see movies at our local theater for free, so that helps as well). But not to praise the brothers Coen too much, we also know they can deliver us crap movies too, like INTOLERABLE CRUALTY or THE LADYKILLERS.
BURN AFTER READING contains several storylines and of course they somehow cross at key moments. Now be aware, the movie becomes complicated very fast for the average viewer. So if you are not used to complex movies and dialogues and you are not capable to keep your focus during such movies, this movie is not for you. Yes, even though Brad Pitt is walking around in short pants, skip this one.
The movie starts with a great scene in which you see Osbourne Cox, played by mister Malkovich, quitting his job at the CIA due to his drinking problem. When he gets home he tries to explain it to his wife, played by Tilda Swinton. She does not seem to care about his situation since she does not even give him a chance to tell her what happened at the office.
We now go to a party where we meet Harry Pfarrer and Sandy Pfarrer (George Clooney and Elizabeth Marvel). The Coxs and the Pfarrers chit chat and we already get some hints of disloyalty and adultery. Throughout the movie this is one of the subplots you will have to keep track off for the movie to make any sense.
The main plot however is about the ‘shit’ – as Brad Pitt puts so nicely – which gets stolen and comes into possession of Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). This ‘shit’ is a biography which Osbourne Cox is writing about his life at the CIA. Linda and Chad however mistake it for sensitive government information and want to make money with it.
This of course does not go as planned and things get messy. I will not go into the details of what happens next with the relationships between the characters and the ‘shit’ of Osbourne Cox, you will have to see that for yourself. I can however tell you that the different plots take some unexpecting turns and the ending of the movie is brilliant.
The acting is what makes this movie, even though it cannot be compared with the best of the best, it is well above average. John Malkovich playing an alcoholic always works and Brad Pitt playing a gay sports instructor is also quite refreshing to see.
But the small scenes of David Rasche and J.K. Simmons in particular, gave me a smile. Rasche and Simmons play a CIA Officer and CIA Superior, whom (during the course of the movie) are monitoring and following the various characters. Their conversations put a nice touch throughout the entire movie.
BURN AFTER READING is not the average “lets go to the cinema and watch something cool”-movie, but rather a “lets go watch something decent and have some good laughs”-kinda thing. Not everyone will like this movie and even though I enjoyed myself, the movie itself is no NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. Do not be mistaken though, BURN AFTER READING is a movie you really should watch if you are a serious moviegoer and it is a shame it has gotten so little promotion, but with blockbusters like MAX PAYNE, MIRRORS and QUANTUM OF SOLACE, it makes sense this movie is easily overlooked.