Burn After Reading - movie review
Burn After Reading
I didn't really know what to think. My thought process after watching Burn After Reading, the latest film from the Coen Brothers, paralleled that of the infamous clown from the Simpson's, who, after narrowly escaping an approaching tank, tragically had his massive inflatable butt popped. "I'm alive" Sir Wide Bottom said, "but why?"
I just don't know.
There's a lot to like in Burn after reading. Bradd Pitt steals the show as a charming, if not over-zealous, bike riding enthusiast. George Clooney plays his part as a lethal womanizer with a strange mixture of ignorance and innocence in equal parts. Even John Malkovich, in his self-indulgent obnoxiousness, somehow manages to be likable in a crazy jack-nicholson-in-the-shining kind of way. Virtually every character is worthy of screen time. The problem is what that screen time amounts to.
The film is a little over an hour and a half, and beginning with a slow roll the picture begins to pick up speed. Connections are made, situations complicate, and predictably, people start to get killed.
Joel and Ethan Coen have in their previous endeavors exquisitely displayed their penchant for gruesome executions of their characters. It doesn't matter whether they're making a comedy, a tragedy, or something in-between, somebody eventually gets thrown into the proverbial wood chopper. They're destined for it. But there is something undeniably unnerving about the swift touches with death in Burn After Reading. When the blood suddenly splatters, and the fellow gets carved, there is a sense of heartlessness exhibited. It is directed towards not only the characters, but the audience as well. There are no heroes in this picture, but at the same time no one specifically deserves to die.
Funny Games, a film I have trouble recommending yet consider one of the finest I've seen, questioned what it is we look for in our story-telling. Ultimately, it's what we want out of life; for good to overcome evil. Burn After Reading features neither of those qualities. There is only a pervading sense of evil, and not much untainted good. There is a sense of what is wrong, but no tether to what should be right. It is an unflinching look at a society imprisoned by it's own fear and paranoia. You'll find yourself laughing, but you won't feel very good about it.