I, Spy: Review for “Burn After Reading”

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                                          The Coen Brothers are back from their Best Picture winning No Country for Old Men, one of the darkest films of 2007.  The brothers are famous for such black comedies as Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and Fargo and their newest film, Burn After Reading, is one of their funniest. When Osbourne Cox (a fantastic John Malkovich), a CIA analyst, is demoted, his life takes a roller coaster turn. His wife (Tilda Swinton), he finds out, wants a divorce and is sleeping with an unshaven, rugged CIA man named Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). But as the wife wants out, she also needs the account information. She burns it onto a disc and accidentally leaves it at the gym, where a self-conscious gym worker (a brilliant Frances McDormand) and a trainer (a hair-raising performance by Brad Pitt) stumble upon the disc. They assume that the disc is full of CIA secrets and tries to blackmail Osbourne for $50,000.  But when Osbourne threatens the two, and the Russians want more information than they have, Chad goes back to the house to find more on the computer. Harry unexpectedly comes hom, so Chad is forced to hide in the closet. The next thing that happens is as shocking as it is funny. J.K. Simmons plays a CIA Superior, and he gets some of the kost laughs, portraying him as a somewhat lazy man who wants to cover things up at all cost. Linda, played by McDormand (who won an Oscar for the Coen Brothers’ Fargo), is very reminiscent of Marge Gunderson. She has almost the exact same hairstyle and a very similar tone of voice. Brad Pitt’s Chad is a character that could be summarized as one of those high school jocks who never really grew up. His head bobbing to the music on his iPod gets some of the funniest laughs. John Malkovich plays the foul-mothed analyst with precision and Tilda Swinton as the cheating wife is brilliant. George Clooney is surprisingly funny as a womanizer, a kind of comedy that hasn’t always worked for him (like in Leatherheads). The script, whether a send up of security and greed or not, shows off the trademark dialogue that the Coen’s are famous for. The subtlety of the comedy is what I like most. I never cared for the really obvious comedy that is all too often showcased in dumb sitcoms. A really funny spy movie it is. Even if it doesn’t become the next Oscar win for Joel and Ethan, it sure is one of the funniest of the summer.

Grade: A- 


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