Monday, September 15, 2008

REVIEW: Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading

Year: 2008
Director: Ethan Coen & Ethan Coen
Starring: George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton
Distributor: Focus Features
MPAA: Rated R

Burn After Reading was probably my most anticipated film of the year. Ever since I saw the film's theatrical trailer, I have been dieing to see this film. I thought the trailer was one of the best movie trailers I have seen in awhile and constantly watching it over again and again made me pretty crazy about the film. What made the film even more exciting was the fact that the Coen brother's were directing it. These guys are very talented when it comes to sharp scripts and strong directing, just check out No Country For Old Men or The Big Lebowski if you don't believe me. My friends and I saw the movie on opening day, but I saw it again on Saturday because I really liked it.

Plot Outline:
Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) gets demoted from his job at the CIA for his alcohol problem. Frustrated by his demotion, Cox decides to write a memoir about his experiences with the CIA. Osborne's wife Katie (Tilda Swinton), is planning to divorce him and has been secretly cheating on him with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). Unfortunately, the disk containing Osborne's memoirs is found on the floor of a gym locker. The manager Ted (Richard Jenkins) wants nothing to do with it, whereas Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), desperate to have a series of surgeries to look better, and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), a fitness obsessed idiot who really loves his ipod, see it as an opportunity to make some easy money.

The Coen brothers wanted to move away from their serious tone that spearheaded their latest film No Country for Old Men to the Oscars, to a more down friendly comedy similar to The Big Lebowski. Enter Burn After Reading. A dark comedy in which the story is full of creative characters that are very well written for a specific actor to portray. The film doesn't really have a plot that it follows, but instead it creates new ones. Its un-predictable and we hardly know whats going to come up next. What really struck me was how everything started materializing. Every little thing started becoming more and more clear. This has been done in many films before it, but I really enjoyed it here. If their is one thing that slightly irritates me about this film or any other Coen brother's film that I have seen, its the un-expected deaths. I realized that almost every one of their films (ones I have seen) have had at least one major character killed. This really isn't an issue because I still think they write some amazing material, but its just alittle annoying when your going into this movie or any of their other movies knowing that someone important is going to die. The film's ending also feels alittle weird. It ends in a way that makes the film's plot seem useless. Its a very suitable and hilarious ending, but just alittle un-fulfilling.

George Clooney plays as Harry Pfarrer and he gives a very good performance that's enjoyable and well acted. His character is funny and I loved every minute of it. John Malkovich plays as Osborne Cox and he gives a fantastic performance. I think he easily stole the show, but the other cast members weren't that far behind. I have been a fan of Malkovich's work for a long time and its great to see him delivering performances like this. Frances McDormand plays as Linda Litzke and shes very good in her role. She fits the role of Linda Litzke just right. Brad Pitt plays as Chad Feldheimer and hes probably going to get the most love. Pitt has been dieing to work with the Coen brother's on a film, but their was just never a good role for the wonderful actor to play. The character Chad was specifically written for Pitt and I think he did a great job at it. His character is probably the one that most people are going to talk about. We also have the lovely Tilda Swinton playing as Katie Cox. I think Swinton looked gorgeous in the film and I have never seen her look this sexy.

The Coen brothers have been known to have some great cinematography in their films and Burn After Reading is no exception. The film just opened last Friday making the it relatively new and this results in pretty much no film grain. The image seemed smooth and crisp for the most part. Colors look wonderful and somewhat vibrant. This is probably the most colorful Coen brother film that I have seen. Just the red clothing of Pitt's character shows you how nicely the color fits into the story. Black levels are nice and dark the way it should be. Flesh tones are spot on and match the character's faces. Detail is surprisingly strong which I really wasn't expecting. Close up shots show every little thing about the person and it really makes for a sharp image. I really wasn't expecting this amount of detail since the trailer didn't look that detailed to begin with, but Its nice to see I was wrong.

The soundtrack for the film is pretty good. Composer Carter Burwell who has scored many if not all of the Coen brother's films and hes back to score Burn After Reading. His score for the film isn't as grand and wacky as I would have liked it to be, but its still good. It makes the film alittle more serious and keeps the viewer in suspense. The quite effects mixed with some soft drum beatings were really effective. I enjoyed it and thought it was well produced even though it isn't much of a score. Whats really surprising about Burn After Reading's soundtrack is simply the bass work. You wouldn't expect a dark comedy like this to feature much bass, but surprisingly it does. Dynamics are pretty front focused, but it still goes around. The bass isn't as jaw dropping as say Transformers, but its still damn good especially for a comedy film.

Burn After Reading is another winner from the creative minds of the Coen brothers. The story is hilarious and nicely constructed in a way for just about anyone to understand. The cast is fantastic with many of them giving out performances that are easily top notch. The visual look of the film is filled with vibrant colors that are nicely detailed. The soundtrack is effective and engaging. It will keep you in suspense and really bring out the story. The bass is also a nice surprise and very good for a dark comedy film like this. Burn After Reading was easily my most anticipated film for the rest of this year. I have seen the movie twice and is willing to see it again just because its so entertaining and worth watching. I can recommend this to those die hard Coen fans and to those looking for a great film. Its easily better than some of the junk that we have in theaters today.

Grade: B


Jaccstev said...

good review Farzan, I think it's not only me who have an issue with the film's ending. But overall, this is totally a very fun film with all the casts who bring their A game and made those characters look really fantastic.

Monique Elisabeth said...

I really liked the ending. Sure, it gives you pause for a second. And then you go... "Oh... I get it! That's funny."

I was also worried when they killed the one character that the movie would go down hill from there, but it didn't, cuz they kept it moving and wrapped it up.

Also, I've never seen "Tilda swinton" and "Sexy" in the same sentence!

Mitch Harper said...

I've been curious to see this movie. The Coen brothers are great directors and this cast looks great. I'm gonna take a guess it's going to be a lot better than the Disaster Movie lol :-D

Farzan said...

lol..alot better Mitch. I havent seen Disaster Movie, but Im sure just about anything is better than that movie. Burn After Reading is easily worth checking out. Ill probably watch it again for the third time sometime ths week

movie buff said...

Brad Pitt can be so funny, as long as he's not taking himself too seriously... in any case, it's about time someone made good use of his habitually spastic arm movements

CruizD said...

Haven't seen the film yet but I've heard about the ending, and why it does work. However i can see you most ppl will think otherwise...

Regardless good review, gave me more insight then I had about the film thus far, though it sounded more like a B+ then a B :)

good work!