Saturday, June 13, 2015

Burn After Reading (2008)

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Writers:   Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Cast:        Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich

A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempts to sell it, first to the CIA agent and then to Russians. 

Coming immediately after the universally acclaimed 'No Country For Old Men', Burn After Reading kind of received a critical backlash at the time of its release which was more of a reaction based on what people expected from the film rather than an objective assessment based on its merits. It is not a great film by any means but is nevertheless a very good watch with so many funny moments. We are used to sophisticated intelligence community films and also films where they are shown as bumbling fools. This kind of treads the middle path with those from CIA trying to get their heads around what is happening which is very much like how the audience is also reacting even though we are privy to more information. 

It is as star-studded as it can get in a Coens film. Performances are very good with many of them playing against type. It is one of those films with plenty of chance encounters connecting all the various characters and driving the film forward. But one does feel the connection between Frances McDormand and George Clooeny's character is a bit too convoluted and unnecessary in the large scheme of things. It was interesting to see some of the actors from Veep showing up in the film. I had seen it several years back close to  its release and was pleasantly surprised by it because of low expectations. It held up well on re-watch and is an underrated gem in the Coens' filmography. Camera was handled by Emmanuel Lubezki rather than their usual collaborator Roger Deakins.

Rating: 3.5/5