“Burn After Reading” is the latest film by the Coen brothers, the creators of the recent award-winning film “No Country For Old Men.”
This movie is an unusual, dark comedy most viewers will either love or hate. It takes a unique approach to humor and seems to successfully cross the comedy and actions genres – though this may also be the film’s downfall.
“Burn” features a predominately all-star cast. In this film, Brad Pitt plays Chad Feldheimer, a gym trainer at a fitness club in suburban Washington, D.C.. He discovers a lost disc on the gym floor that he determines contains spy files from the U.S. government.
Subsequently, Chad and his coworker Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand, “Fargo”) assume the documents contained in the disc are highly classified and decide to use the disc to blackmail Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich, “Being John Malkovich”). Linda needs the blackmail money for extensive plastic surgery. Cox is an ex-CIA agent with a drinking problem. Harry Pfarrer, played by George Clooney, is a U.S. marshal and Cox’s wife Katie’s (Tilda Swinton, “Michael Clayton”) lover.
After the discovery of the computer disc, a series of missteps, cases of mistaken identity and misunderstandings unravel throughout the remainder of the movie.
Essentially, this is the basis for “Burn.” It comes across as random and without much depth in the plot. On a basic level, many complex things are all happening at once, yet these subplots don’t clearly tie together. The movie lacks the ability to have the viewer choose a side with the conflicts that arise, because there simply wasn’t a good or bad side in the movie.
On a more positive note, the directing by the Coen brothers stands out. The duo is well-known for their unique and often-praised directing techniques, and “Burn” is no exception, especially if you are a fan of their directing methods.
Their style of directing results in clever dialogue, revealing camera angles and scenes that are clearly well-conceived and produced.
Also known for clearly defining their screenplay before filming – perhaps overly so – the Coen brothers likely went into great detail in planning for this film, which contributes to their precise cinematography and specific dialogue.
The music used throughout this movie seemed appropriate in the context of the scenes it was used in. Also, the soundtrack seemed to fit the characters and what took place during any particular scene exceptionally well, especially when compared to most other movies.
Overall, the planned camera shots, an appropriate soundtrack and a well-planned script were elements that contributed positively to this film.
Due to its lack of depth and a convoluted plot, this film is bound to leave many viewers disappointed. The film comes across as almost shallow, and the plot didn’t engage the viewer effectively.
This is a comedy, and while the film is bound to make you laugh on occasion, one is often left wondering why. This film is not terrible. Rather, it is mediocre. The dialogue seemed overdone and exaggerated, though this was partially masked by decent acting and a capable cast.
Lasting a mere 96 minutes, one wonders why the Coen brothers didn’t add a little extra time to come up with a more meaningful plot.
The movie ranked No. 1 in the box office during the opening week and brought in just under $20 million domestically. These results are likely a result of the acting and cast, rather than the quality of the film itself. It would not be far-fetched to assume this movie would have flopped were it not for the cast. The acting saved this film.
Overall, this is an occasionally humorous flick that might be OK to see once if you are a fan of the actors or are a close follower of films by the Coen brothers. If neither of those are the case, consider skipping this film.