“Report back to me when it makes sense”
If Seinfeld met the Coen Brothers, had a baby, and taught it how to use a camera, Burn After Reading would be the result. Only the Coen Brothers can make a movie that both simultaneously appears to be about nothing but also about everything, which is fitting given the title is to burn some knowledge that you first read and never see again. It’s a film that might leave you scratching your head by the end but ultimately, that’s exactly what it wants to do and I for one thought it was all great.
I’ve mentioned this previously, but the Coen Brothers have basically put filmmaking down to a science. Apart from Hail Caesar! and The Lady Killers, they haven’t really done anything wrong and have continued to make fantastic films across a variety of themes. Which is more than likely why the story for Burn After Reading also works because it’s handled by two people who can seemingly take any subject matter and make it incredibly interesting. This is also due to the wonderful array of characters they’ve created in their filmography and in Burn After Reading, we get a huge number of them.
From Brad Pitt playing a highly enthusiastic fitness trainer, to John Malkovich as an ex-CIA agent, every character was a burst of energy on screen. And when you have an all-star cast at your disposal with additions like George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and J.K Simmons, I’m not surprised that these portrayals are coming to life so vividly. The actor-director relationship is working so well, which stems from the collaboration history for most of those names who have worked on many films directed by the Coen brothers.
This is going to be a fairly short review because just like the name Coen signals, you’re going to be getting some excellent filmmaking on display, but what I will add is that unlike some of the other more serious or tense films like No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading lends itself to be very idiosyncratic. So much so that it isn’t as quirky as their other film The Big Lebowski, but more on the level where it stands out as being fresh in its own right.
There’s also a lot of different strands coming together with several subplots twinning in on themselves, almost akin to that of Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel, but it’s much funnier than that. As I said earlier, Burn After Reading really does feel like a Seinfeld episode just in feature-length form because ultimately, it’s a story about nothing and everything at the same time. This is what makes it so unique and why it’s different compared to the Coen brother’s other films.
I’ll be recommending that you check this out since it’s also out on Netflix in Australia and the United States. If you haven’t heard of the Coen brothers and have been living under a rock, then do yourself a favor and fix that immediately. See it.