Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen Brothers
And The "League of Morons"

- The Coen Brothers decided to follow up their multi-Oscar-winning cerebral crime thriller, No Country For Old Men (2007), by staying imaginative but going comical. Working with an ensemble cast of Hollywood all-stars, the Coens deliver an odd yet interesting and dark yet funny comedic thriller in the 2008 film Burn After Reading.

Allow me to introduce the "League of Morons"....

George Clooney stars as the paranoid moron Harry, a professional womanizer always trying to "fit a run in." Frances McDormand is the insecure moron Linda, an athletic trainer whose primary focus in life is plastic surgery and internet dating. Brad Pitt is the childish moron Chad, Linda's fun-loving, innocent, and naive friend and co-worker at the "Hardbodies" fitness center. John Malkovich is the angry moron Osborne Cox, a former CIA agent trying to write his "mem-wahs" (memoirs) and, finally, Tilda Swinton is the cold-hearted moron Katie, having an affair with Harry and trying to divorce Osborne. These people have much more in common with each other than they could possibly imagine and their lives intertwine to produce weighty, funny, madcap, and unexpected outcomes.

Burn After Reading is a very different yet, oxymoronically, a very characteristic Coen Brothers film. The film is shot as a serious espionage thriller; only none of the main characters have a clue. The story is very humor-oriented but a lot of darkness leaks in. Of course, the Coens form Burn After Reading so that it can flawlessly go from funny to tragic in the blink of an eye.

New to the Coen Brothers family is cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (lighting up such films as Sleepy Hollow (1999) and Children Of Men (2006)). The collaborative look that the Coens and Lubezki create for Burn After Reading does not quite match up to the past fifteen years of the Coens and the master of light and color Roger Deakins but it certainly is great, surrounding its all-too-amusing content with an all-to-serious look.

The star-studded cast could not have been better. As is the same with every one of his Coen-made films, George Clooney is absolutely hilarious and is incredibly fun to watch in this the third of the Coen/Clooney collaborations. However, Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand especially impress in their roles as Chad and Linda, respectively;  Pitt gives one of his finest efforts to date with a very funny and wild yet not particularly over-the-top portrayal of a character that he has never come close to playing before and McDormand is extremely quirky while being entirely believable and sympathetic (albeit only to a certain extent). But one cannot go wrong with any of the rich and recognizable cast members since each actor performs at his or her best throughout Burn After Reading.

Completing what the Coen Brothers have named "The Idiot Trilogy," including their other films featuring clueless George Clooney characters O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) and Intolerable Cruelty (2003), Burn After Reading is a very funny, unique, and satisfying film - a welcomed piece of the Coen Brothers' body of work.

CBC Rating: 9/10

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