Another installment in the Coen Brothers collection of films, Burn After Reading turns out to be their version of a spy film (of sorts, it is a Coen Bros. film after all). And since it’s a film by the brothers Coen, it’s got the rich, great characters you’ve come to present when they put their brains together and come up with another masterful piece to their body of work.
I will add that the film isn’t as dark and sinister as No Country for Old Men, nor is it quite as quirky as The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading falls somewhere between the 2 in terms of it’s degree of both quirky and dark. Starting with the demotion of ex-CIA agent Osborne Cox (played by John Malkovich) while exposing the affair his wife is having and eventually intertwining with a blackmail scheme from a couple of bumbling gym-employees, the film is expertly woven together through the antics of some really rich, intriguing characters.
One of the things I love about Coen films is those unexpected out-of-nowhere moments. I won’t reveal any of them in this film because that’s part of the fun of the ride. But (SPOILER ALERT), a prime example from No Country for Old Men is when Woody Harrelson’s character gets shot by Javier Bardem. There are numerous moments like that in here, one surprisingly blunt and grisly. The style of the directors also doesn’t allow overuse of those sucker-punch moments but allows some building to take place beforehand so you don’t see them coming, and considering their infrequency you tend to appreciate them all the more.
The lineup is a laundry list of amazing talent who all just crush their roles. You can tell actors like working with these guys as the talent always brings it’s A game to their films. The impressive lineup includes: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, J.K. Simmons and Elizabeth Marvel.
If you’re a fan of the quirky, compelling work of the Coens, be sure to give Burn After Reading a viewing.
reviewed by Sean McKnight