Film review: Burn After Reading

2009-02-03 00:00

ANGELINA Jolie reportedly said that she was not attracted at all to Brad Pitt in his klutzy role in Burn After Reading. One can’t blame her. In fact, there’s no one in this Coen brothers offering who is even half-decent, save for Richard Jenkins (a Coen Brothers regular). Of course, he suffers a cruel end as a result of his good-guy persona. The rest are just morons. Which we can only assume is the point: the poster reads “Intelligence is Relative”.

The film begins with Osborne “Ozzie” Cox (John Malkovich), a CIA analyst who loses his job for no clear reason other than “a drinking problem”. Enraged, his revenge takes the form of his writing his memoirs, a notion which is sniggered at by his wife (Tilda Swinton).

Through a chance oops, a CD copy of Ozzie’s memoirs is left behind in the ladies’ change room of a local gym, where dumb employee and trainer Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and even dumber co-worker Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) see it as a means of getting rich. They offer to return it to Ozzie in return for a generous reward, but paranoid Ozzie misunderstands and flies off the handle, accusing them of blackmail.

The blackmail idea is exploited by Linda, who sees it as a way to pay for plastic surgery. Intertwined with this are all the affairs, centred around serial philanderer Harry Pfarrar (George Clooney).

The Coen brothers scripted Burn After Reading simultaneously with No Country For Old Men, alternating every other day for each script. But unlike No Country, one comes away from Burn feeling little to nothing for any of its characters, which were penned with the actual actors in mind.

The major themes swing between spy-thriller and middle-aged loneliness, which is perhaps why various aspects of the film seem so disjointed. For such innovative film-makers, one has to question the motive behind making this one, where the f-word features 60 times and the shock factor serves no meaningful story. All that can be ascertained is that it’s a 96-minute, self-deprecating exercise for Hollywood’s most sought-after stars, and make no mistake — there are some very funny moments. Pitt and Clooney are both hysterical, but there will be no accolades dished out, because there is explicitly no point to it at all.

*** Ryan Calder.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.