By the time this movie came out, everybody knew who the Coen brothers were. I mean, just one year earlier they released one of my all-time favorites No Country for Old Men. And while that was a gritty neo-noir epic, the movie we’re going to talk about today is something entirely else. Burn After Reading is a spy black comedy featuring an excellent cast and an even better script. We will be following two gym employees who stumble upon something highly valuable. And dangerous. You could argue that the story is reminiscent of No Country, what with the whole accidental find thing.
However, our dynamic duo is very much different than Llewelyn Moss. And Osbourne Cox is definitely not Anton Chigurh. Then again, no one is even remotely close to Anton Chigurh. Burn After Reading feels more like the nineties hit The Big Lebowski as it’s equally funny and refreshing. The characters were simply gorgeous and it was a pleasure to watch them interact with each other. On top of that, the Coen Brothers wrote these specific characters with specific actors in mind. And they fucking got them all.
Only Tilda Swinton is playing a character that’s not specifically written with her in mind. And since our two protagonists are average people with average or even below-average intelligence, the movie features a healthy dose of reality. Like some of this stuff could really happen because I’m sure that you’ve asked yourself in the past few months about someone: are you that stupid? I also love the fact that Burn After Reading is a spy movie without car chases, explosions, and other action elements that was still engaging as fuck.
Osbourne Cox is a man who has a drinking problem. He’s also a CIA analyst who just quit his job in order to write his memoirs. Behind the scenes, there’s a lot going on in his life but all of that will come to a halt after one unfortunate incident. You see, a couple of dim-witted gym employees accidentally gain possession of the copy of his memoirs setting off an atomic bomb in all of their lives. Soon, problems will start to escalate and an international scandal with very personal dimensions will be under way.
Short (90 minutes) and to the point, Burn After Reading is a highly entertaining movie you’ll have no trouble finishing. Once the initial mayhem starts, you will feel compelled to see how it could possibly end. I’m not going to bore you with the cast and the performances as you already know they were stellar. You can also enjoy the contrast between the lives of the elite and the lives of us, ordinary citizens. And just to be perfectly clear, I’m talking about the money and the environment, not their behavior.
Mostly because when you look they’re behavior, there’s not much difference as all of these CIA analysts and U.S. Marshals are also driven by basic human instincts. They’re just as petty, explosive, and sinful as the rest of us. However, society puts them on this pedestal that Burn After Reading simply levels to the ground. We’re all human after all. Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies check out RED, Spy Hard and The Man Who Knew Too Little.
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen.
Cast: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins
Fun Facts: The production team had trouble finding a cheap suit that would look bad on Brad Pitt. They finally settled on a suit that was badly cut and with a really bad wool tie.