Saturday, 27 December 2008

Movie Review: Burn After Reading

As with Cleaner, I had no idea what to expect when I began watching this movie. I really mean that. I did not know what genre it was, or anything beyond the title and that George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and Brad Pitt were in it. After having watched it, I still don't really know. It's a comedy, yes, but also a spy movie, maybe.

The plot revolves around a CD, on which is written the incoherent and largely irrelevant memoir of a low-clearance ex-spy, found by gym trainers who try to return it to the writer of the memoir in exchange for enough money to pay off one character's cosmetic surgery. The ex-spy, however, doesn't know anything about the disc, considering his litigous and frosty wife has made it in preperation for her impending divorce. Things start getting out of control, people start getting paranoid, people start getting divorced, people start getting shot, and no one ever gets the complete picture.

What is interesting about the movie is not its bizarre plot, but its even more bizarre characters. George Clooney plays Harry Pfarrer, a paranoid, womanizing-yet-uxophilic illiterate who works for the treasury and jogs. Francis McDormand plays Linda Litzke, a plastic-surgery-obsessed gym trainer who who believes in positive thinking and has a weird metaphor for every situation. John Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, the foul-mouthed, axe-wielding screw-up ex-spy with a drinking problem. Tilda Swinton plays Katie Cox, the vicious adulterous wife of Cox whose bedside manner makes her previous role as the White Witch look like the Tooth Fairy. Best of all is Brad Pitt, who plays a goofy, incapable gym trainer who has the most can-do attitude Linda Litzke has ever met. Each of these characters, not to mention the secondary characters and even many of the bit parts, are flawless gems, honed to perfection.

The movie is quirky, surprising, and very bizarre. The hilarious characters and situations turn these traits into its best characteristics. I suggest it for anyone who can handle unorthodox films.

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