I chose to watch Burn After Reading on my journey to watch all of the Coen films. It was one that I’d wanted to see when it came out, but ultimately missed. It’s not my favorite Coen movie, but it’s definitely odd and quirky and features some great performances. I give Burn After Reading the Decent Watch rating.
Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is writing his memoir that contains some CIA information. The disk with the files ends up in the hands of two gym employees, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), who attempt to sell it.
It’s hard to say what I didn’t like of Ethan and Joel Coen’s film. It may be that I’ll need to watch this one again. I did feel like the point of the film was lost on me. Yet, J.K. Simmons character seems to echo that sentiment, which leads me to believe there wasn’t a point. It was a character film of several broken people. A few of which had access to some important information, and the others just looking to improve their station. That set-up leads to some interesting characters with lots of funny and shocking moments.
John Malkovich plays a crazy person married to Tilda Swinton’s cold character. George Clooney plays a treasurer employee who likes to sleep around quite a bit. Clooney is extremely paranoid, but I’m not 100% of why. It may be the affair with Swinton and Malkovich’s connection to the CIA, but that was clear to me.
It’s Brad Pitt’s character that brings some of the best humor in the film. Watching him dance while running on a treadmill made me laugh a lot. Then Frances McDormand’s desire to improve her looks with surgery and the need for money that really motivates the plot. She needs money and hopes that CIA information is her ticket to her new body. The scenes that tell the story utilize lots of repeated moments to explain how all of these people cross paths with one another. It’s really entertaining and definitely within the Coen’s style.
I’d have to say that No Country for Old Men and True Grit are probably my favorite films from the Coens. However, I love a lot of their work. This movie definitely has some solid elements, but something inside me felt unsatisfied. It’s one I’d be willing to watch again and see if something clicks in the next viewing.