The Coen Brothers have an impressive and diverse filmography but Burn After Reading made in 2008 is one of the gems that tend to be overlooked but is now re-released onto Blu-ray by Fabulous Films in the UK.
When a disc filled with some of the CIA’s most irrelevant secrets gets in the hands of two determined, but dim-witted, gym employees, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. But since blackmail is a trade better left for the experts, events soon spiral out of everyone’s and anyone’s control.
All the characters in this movie are flawed in one way or another, from George Clooney who is chasing woman after woman even if he is married, to Frances McDormand who is desperate to have plastic surgery to “improve” her appearance it is hard to root for any of them, which really is the point.
A spy thriller is what some may come to expect before watching but that aspect of the story is not really relevant as it is more about the different characters and no matter how much they try and improve their life come unstuck badly. The cast is superb and apart from Clooney and McDormand, who regularly work with the Cohens you have John Malkovich, Richard Jenkins, Tilda Swanson and Brad Pitt who is hilarious and almost steals the show as the fitness trainer who is such a dimwit he just gets himself deeper and deeper into trouble.
Malkovich, playing alcoholic has-been CIA analyst Osbourne Cox, is the obscene, furious engine, driving the whole film as his decision to quit and write his memoirs starts the whole ball rolling.
The comedy is very dark in places but it all ties up beautifully even if the abrupt ending has you puzzled at first. As usual with the directors, the film is beautifully and skillfully shot with unusual camera angles and tight shots. Look out for 2 great cameos from David Rasche (who many will remember as the lead in the cop parody series Sledgehammer ) and the great J.K. Simmons, they frame the opening and closing of the movie expertly.
The film has been released before onto Blu ray but this is a new re-release from Fabulous films with a good transfer and excellent if static sound mix. Extras are short but good and include –
FINDING THE BURN – The making of Burn After Reading
DC INSIDERS RUN A MUCK – An all-star cast creates the world of Washington, DC, insiders all trying to get ahead or find true love
WELCOME BACK, GEORGE – This comedy piece features Mr. Clooney as he returns for his third collaboration with Ethan and Joel.
A very enjoyable black comedy and well worth checking out as it gets better with each viewing.
FILM – 8 PICTURE – 8 AUDIO – 7 EXTRAS – 6