Burn After Reading

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/10/2008

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 96 mins

An enjoyable Coen Brothers comedy with strong comic performances throughout, though it's more Intolerable Cruelty than The Big Lebowski.

What's it all about?
Set in Washington D.C., Burn After Reading stars John Malkovich as CIA analyst Osborne Cox, who's just been fired because of his drinking problem. Furious with his bosses and ignored by his frosty wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) - who's having an affair with married federal marshal Harry (George Clooney) - Osborne decides to write his memoirs, but a disc containing his manuscript accidentally ends up in the hands of dim-witted gym employees Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand).

Chad and Linda see the disc as an opportunity to get rich quick, but their plan to extort Cox quickly spirals out of control. Meanwhile, Linda is dating men off the internet (including Harry), while unaware that her boss at the gym (Richard Jenkins) is pining over her.

The Good
At one point, Malkovich's character refers to Linda and Chad as 'the league of morons', which would have made a perfect alternate title for the film. As such, the entire cast deliver inspired comic performances, though Brad Pitt is easily the stand-out as his very appearance (sporting the kind of pompadour hairstyle he hasn't worn since Johnny Suede) is enough to induce giggling fits.

There's also good work from Malkovich (hilariously apoplectic throughout) and the always-excellent McDormand, while Clooney adds several delightfully off-the-wall touches to his character and gets the film's biggest laugh in a scene that it would be churlish to spoil. There's also great support from J.K. Simmons as a bemused CIA boss and a superb score by Carter Burwell.

The Great
The script crackles with terrific dialogue, particularly when Chad and Linda start behaving as if they're in a cheesy spy movie. Similarly, the film is beautifully edited and the way all the pieces click together is a joy to behold.

Worth seeing?
Burn After Reading isn't on the level of previous Coen Brothers masterpieces, but it's a lot of fun and worth seeing for Brad Pitt alone. Recommended.

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Burn After Reading
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Content updated: 21/11/2019 18:52

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