Film Review: Burn After Reading

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This is a complex Coen Brothers caper. John Malkovich stars as a recently made redundant CIA agent Osborne Cox. Tired of their loveless marriage and in the midst of an affair with another man, and now without an income, his wife (played by Tilda Swinton) decides to divorce him. Destitute and depressed, Cox decides he’ll write a book about his CIA exploits but loses a draft of the book at the gym. Gym employees Chad (Brad Pitt) and Linda (Frances McDomand) find the papers and see it as a blackmail opportunity to pay for the plastic surgery procedures Linda wants. To complicate things, Linda starts an affair with a charming stranger Harry (George Clooney) who is also the man Cox’s wife is having an affair with. Throw into the mix Ted (Richard Jenkins) as the gym owner in love with Linda who tries to help her out and things begin to unravel quickly.

This film is as quirky as you would expect and the script and direction is interesting and sizzles at times. It just gets a bit too convoluted and strange at times and some of the performances are below par. Mostly this is in the case of the usually great Clooney who mugs and pulls faces galore here but to no real effect. More entertaining is Pitt who seems to thrive in the role of the camp, dim-witted gum chewing gym worker. Jenkins is also very good as the infatuated boss and of all the characters commands the most sympathy from the audience here. Everyone else is underhand and selfish but he is sweet and kind and caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and in such delivers a wonderfully understated performance.

This film could have been wonderful but I felt it just falls short because it is just too quirky on occasion but is entertaining and enjoyable nonetheless.


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