BURN AFTER READING (Blu-ray Edition)
Universal Studios | 2008 | 95 mins | Rated R | Dec 21, 2008
Written by Brian Wylie
December 28, 2008
I am going to tell you a quote that a friend of mine said about this movie, “Sit back, relax, and laugh about a movie that is about absolutely nothing.” I couldn’t agree with him more, well he meant it in a good way while I mean it in a bad way. This spy comedy is filled with lies, murder, blackmail, and sexual additions, and sadly, very litle comedy. It is a shame to say that this all star cast assembled by the Coen Brothers is wasting its talent on a movie about middle aged people hitting that mid-life crisis and how they handle each of their certain situations.
The movie starts with Osbourne Cox getting demoted for reasons not really told, just said in the moment. You later find that after his demotion, he quit his job from the CIA as an analyst. It is here where his life starts falling apart. He is starting to lose his wife as well as his life. His wife has been cheating on him for some time and is looking to divorce him and this is the perfect time to do so. So she makes a copy of their financial information for her lawyer, at his request.
This is where the movie picks up. That disc was lost by the lawyer’s secretary at a gym that is run by some dumb people. Well it just so happens that the disc is found and two of the physical trainers there, Chad and Linda. They find it and decide to return it for a reward. Linda needs money for her “surgeries” and Chad is doing it to help her out. When there plans to return this disc don’t go according to plan, they turn to the Russians to blackmail Osbourne and get the money from them. What these two don’t know is that they think this disc is secret CIA information and don’t know until it is way too late that it is gibberish.
Then you have Harry Pfarrer. He is friends of Osbourne and Katie Cox and is the one who is sleeping with Katie. He too is married but is a sex addict and also looks to pick up girls online. He ends up playing both sides of the Cox story and of the trainer’s story, and has no idea what he is getting into and is just struggling with life and doesn’t know what he wants. He ends up getting in too deep in every area of his life and it all falls apart when he finds out his wife is cheating on him, he realizes he doesn’t really like Katie, and the woman he thinks he is falling for is trying to turn him in for a murder he thought was self defense.
See, I told you, it is a movie about absolutely nothing and you just sit back and watch middle aged people struggle with their mid-life crisis in different ways that nobody can really relate to. So viewers beware, it is a great cast that has its talents wasted on a slow boring movie that truly only had a few laugh out loud moments.
As I have said before the cast is unbelievable and the Coen Brothers did a great job of writing roles for them. It's just a shame they couldn't have written a decent story for those characters. You have George Clooney who plays as Harry and it might be his best work ever. He is nerdy, corky, and all over the place as his character is suppose to be. You have Tilda Swinton playing the stuck up bitch doctor that just wants to control everything in her life. Brad Pitt steps out of his shell and puts on an amazing show as the idiotic trainer who doesn’t know anything and lives life in his own little world. Frances McDormand does a masterful job of playing a woman ready for something new in her life and will do anything and anyone to feel that way. And then you get John Malkovich, maybe one of the best actors in our lifetime. We all hear that he is an arrogant person and he plays that to a T in this movie. Finally there is J.K. Simmons and Richard Jenkins who make small time appearances that add to the film and J.K. was just hilarious in his five minutes of camera time. You couldn’t have put together a better cast; it’s just a shame that they waste their talents and at times best work on a slow moving and at times boring film.
You have some great locations and wonderful sets that are put together to make you feel like you are everywhere you were suppose to be. Whether that place would have been in the CIA headquarters, or in Georgetown, or on Osbourne’s yacht, every scene looked vivid and clear. Presented in 1080p resolution and at 1.85:1 widescreen, there is some sharp contrast and crystal clear quality but there are also a few scenes where the colors, especially the skin tones are washed out, almost as if they were shot with a blue filter. There is also a consistent level of minor grain that shows up throughout the entire show as well as some focusing issues where objects in the foreground are amazingly sharp against blurred backgrounds.
Mixed with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, you have a nice blend of suspensful and dramatic music that is so subtle you hardly notice it at a conscious level, but it certainly delivers at an emotional one. There's not a lot of opportunity for fancy sound effects but the movie is full of realistic effects and they are all positioned perfectly in 3D surround space. There is a surprising amount of dialogue, often overlapping, and for the most part it comes through the center channel with clear quality. There is even some nice use of LFE that will please your subwoofer.
There is no re-watching value at all to this film and on top of that, you are expected to pay anywhere from twenty-five bucks to forty bucks for three extras. Come on, it is getting ridiculous these days with the Blu-ray technology for you only to have three worthless extras and double the price. You do get to see how they made the film in a 10-minute documentary that also discusses the backgrounds of each character and why each actor was picked and groomed for their individual parts. There is another insulting feature discussing how hard it was to make the "attractive" Clooney and Pitt look like mere mortals. And finally you have a short feature dedicated entirely to George Clooney. It's basically an ego-inflating propaganda piece and frankly, none of these extras are very long nor will they keep you very interested.
I know I have a tendency of doing this but I can’t give the overall score anything higher even though my other categories were much higher. There is that interest factor that plays a huge part in a film and I constantly found myself wanting to do anything or watch anything other than this movie. Yes, the acting was superb from everyone in the film. Yes, the visuals were stunning. But there is just so much that great actors and sets bring to a film that makes it something you want to buy. If you are really into that kind of movie the give this a rental, sit back, relax, and enjoy a rented movie about absolutely nothing.