Project 101

Dan attempts to watch 101 movies in 12 months

Archive for February 12th, 2009

#24 Burn After Reading

Posted by Dan on February 12, 2009

burn_after_readingYou can usually pick a Coen brothers movie from a mile away, and this one is no different. In fact, you could probably pick this from 5 miles away. Mind you though, I’m still undecided on whether or not this is a good thing. When you’re a filmmaker, you can either keep making the same type of movie again and again and get accused of just churning out the same photocopy on film again and again, or you can finally do something different, and get accused of selling out – I mean, shit, just ask Kevin Smith. I guess the secret is finding something to churn out time and time again that’s actually good. And as much as I’d hate to admit it, the Coens have probably found it. But, this isn’t an essay on the Coen brothers (although I would love to write one).

One of the things I love about a movie by the Coens’ is that they almost have a celebration of the ordinary. There’s usually themes of average people, even losers, who manage to think that they’ve made it big, that they’ve hit some deep hardcore problems. It was evident in one of my favourite movies ever, The Big Lebowski, and it reeks here.

Burn After Reading has an amazing cast – Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, as well as some cult favourites like the always-amazing JK  Simmons. It’s kind of hard to go into the a simply synopsis of the movie without writing for pages and pages, but needless to say, if you’ve liked previous Coen movies, you’ll like this one too. There’s some kind of sick fascination that I have with watching idiots get in over their head, and just witnessing the painful scenes that play out – kind of like in the original version of The Office. I can only watch a couple of these shows in a row because it’s so awkward. This is similar – it’s so hilarious, yet oh so painful to see these idiots (well, mainly Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand’s characters) who think that they’ve stumbled on some high-class military FBI secrets. But really, it’s just a book that Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) has written about his life working in the FBI, which is nowhere near as insightful as it could be.

It’s one of those great movies that has lots of characters with seperate storylines that always seem to end up being the same storyline with the same characters. The plot twists are ridiculous to the point of hilarity, and at times you just have to accept that what you’re watching really is happening. It’s only during the last few minutes watching JK Simmons sum up what you’ve ultimately just watched, that makes you realise how stupid the events that have just unfolded have been – but it’s an amazing ride that’s definitely worth a second visit.

I give Burn After Reading 4 out of 5 hard-bodies.

Rather than give the usual quotes from the movie, I’ll give you an excert from a great article I read about the movie:

Pitt, who plays a particularly unintelligent character in Burn After Reading, said of his role, “After reading the part, which they said was hand-written for myself, I was not sure if I should be flattered or insulted.” Pitt also said when he was shown the script, he told the Coens he did not know how to play the part because the character was such an idiot: “There was a pause and then Joel goes…’You’ll be fine.'”

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