Starring: Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich
Running time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Ethan Cohen & Joel Cohen
Written By: Joel Cohen & Ethan Cohen
Prior to Burn After Reading the Cohen brothers made the fantastic film that was No Country For Old Men, which scooped awards galore at the Oscars of its year. When their next feature was announced, and it was to be starring some of Hollywood's best acting talent, most people could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be brilliant. Unfortunately however either No Country For Old Men was that good it will make anything the brothers do look less than average, or Burn After Reading is that poor that it makes their other movies look amazing. Whichever way round it is it doesn't change the fact that Burn After Reading is a poor film despite the fantastic acting talent and the great directors and writers on show.
The plot of the film is all over the place for starters. It begins with John Malkovich being downgraded from his job in the CIA, to which he accepts by quitting. Instead of telling his wife that night, they host a party where we meet George Clooney's character who it is made clear quite quickly is having an affair with Tilda Swinton, Malkovich's wife. Once the party is over Malkovich tells his wife that he has quit his job and will begin writing his memoirs. Not taking this too well she heads out to begin divorce proceedings against her husband and hopes to run off with Clooney.
Alongside this we find ourselves in a gym, whose workers are Frances McDormand's lonely and unhappy with her looks Linda and scatty and off his head Chad played by Brad Pitt. Linda is clearly looking for love and spends her spare time searching internet sites for dates, which she seems to never find a perfect match, and being rejected for plastic surgery due to money issues. Her luck soon changes however when Chad finds a CD revealing Malkovich's memoirs in the ladies changing rooms, to which they use in an attempt to blackmail him. To bring the entire ensemble full circle Linda's next date from her website is with Harry (Clooney), with whom she begins a full blown affair. It is highlighted quickly that he is a serial cheat. From here the film twists and turns between the leads and the entire plot comes round full circle, although not everything seems to really be cleared up.
There are moments in the film that seem to make little sense. Unless I'm missing something I don't understand the point behind the invention Clooney has built in his basement, and if anything I found his character a little bit of a throw away. To me the main plot was with Pitt and McDormand blackmailing Malkovich, and Clooney never is involved with this story thread. The ending is also skated over, and practically omitted in the same way Llewellyn Moss's fate is decided in No Country For Old Men. Perhaps this is a typical director trait.
Despite the few issues with the plot the acting talent do help this story along. Each of them are brilliant in their roles and they do not disappoint with their involvement in the film. Special mention should go to Pitt and Clooney for their against type turns. The script is also a good part of the film with the dialogue being original and free flowing. The problem however is the mess of the storyline which seems to go off in unnecessary tangents and at times becomes slightly boring. It does have its moments but they are few and far between. It has been stated that the Cohen brothers were writing this at the same time as No Country For Old Men and would alternate the days for which one they would work on. It seems like one of them got priority.
What makes this film most disappointing is the actors and directors are great at what they do, but they all seem wasted in this film. The actors are actually what make this film a bit better than rubbish, whilst the directors don't seem to bring their usual excellence to the proceedings. It is a shame really as there is so much that draws you to this film and the problem is that you will watch it and feel slightly bored and over expectant of what is coming next, because quite honestly nothing ever actually comes about. The ending is also just thrown in and suddenly happens out of nothing. If you are a fan of the Cohen's you will either love this as you feel you should or you will be disappointed as it does not live up to their previous work. If you are unaware of these two great directors then hire the other film I have mentioned a good few times in this review, and give the film I'm actually reviewing a miss.
1.5 / 5
Next film to review: COLOMBIANA