Sunday, November 13, 2011

Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading; black comedy, USA, 2008; D: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, S: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, David Rasche, J. K. Simmons

After his superior informs him that he is downgraded from his CIA position, Balkan analyst Osbourne Cox is so furious that he quits his job and decides to write memoirs with sensationalistic undertones. At the same time, his wife Katie is having an affair with Harry, a womanizing Treasury employee and US Marshal. After a careless lawyer loses Osbourne's CD with his memoirs, it is found in a gym by Linda and Chad who want to return it for 50.000 $, mistakenly thinking it is a highly classified CIA file. After Harry accidentally kills Chad in Osbourne's apartment and finds out his wife is also planning to divorce him, he decides to leave the US. Osbourne wanted to kill Ted for breaking into his apartment searching for more documents, but both were shot by CIA agents. Back at the CIA headquarters, Palmer and director are puzzled by the mess of the events in the report.

The 13th film by the Coen brothers, "Burn After Reading" is another edition to their 'misanthropic comedy' list, yet the directors and writers became so comfortably 'Hollywoodized' in the meantime that they lost their 'Coen touch' which adorned their fresh first phase of their career. A spoof of two major US institutions, the CIA and the body-beauty industry, "Burn" is as a whole a surprisingly circled out movie with a polished structure and cold calculation, yet the Coens do not manage to show their pure sense for comic timing, which is also undermined due to their bleak-negative perspective which belittles almost every character in the film. All actors are good, yet the movie "clicks" only when George Clooney and Brad Pitt (who once again showed that funny-relaxed roles suit him more than melodramatic ones) are on the screen, yet in all other examples it takes too much time to bring a point across or is simply not that funny. The chair with the dildo scene particularly seems as if the Coens lost their taste and sense for measure. Two great payoffs, though, come towards the end of the film: in one, Malkovich plays Osbourne, the kind of guy who is a wimp and suffers from a minority complex: you get the idea that he was only in the CIA to show off, but once he loses his job nobody perceives him as an authority. Towards the end, when he stumbles upon an even bigger wimp, Ted, who broke into his house to steal data from his PC, he finally enjoys the chance to "show his strength" and even says: "You're one of the morons I've been fighting my whole life. My whole life. But guess what... Today, I win." What follows is a hilarious scene of insanity. Secondly, the conclusion with the two CIA officials summing up all the events and commenting how crazy they were are simply a riot, with the underrated actor J. K. Simmons showing his full potentials.


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