United States, 2008
Directed By: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins
Running Time: 96 minutes
Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content, and violence
4 out of 5 stars
“Coen Brothers” is a certifiable genre, even if there are only 2 people who can make films in it. Whether screwball comedy or neo-noir or gangster or stoner or western, each of their genre-bending films have retained the unique Coen hallmarks: quirky characters, idiosyncratic dialogue, vivid regionalism, and a hyper-sensitive balance between comedy and tragedy.
Many of the Coen regulars are back in an ensemble that rivals the one they put together for The Big Lebowski: Francis McDormand (5 Coen roles), George Clooney (2 roles), Richard Jenkins (2), and JK Simmons (1) are joined by Coen virgins Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, and Tilda Swinton. Set amidst the imposing backdrop of Washington D.C., with monuments and embassies conspicuously hovering over the characters like darkly disapproving intelligence gods, Burn After Reading involves the tell-all memoirs of an ex-CIA spook (Malkovich) falling into the hands of a can-do fitness instructor (McDormand) who desperately needs $40,000 worth of plastic surgery. When she goes fishing for a “reward,” things spiral out of control as desperate people make increasingly desperate decisions, ultimately destroying their lives in the process.
About the author:
Evan Derrick loves movies, loves talking about movies, and even makes them from time to time. In addition to being the founder and senior editor for MovieZeal.com, he is also a member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle and a father of two beautiful children. He can be reached for comment or complaint at firstname.lastname@example.org.