Burn After Reading

Viewed – 21 April 2010  DVD

The much acclaimed and Oscar-winning sibling directors Joel & Ethan Coen deliver a movie that once again isn’t easy to classify.  With a big name cast including George ClooneyBrad Pitt and John Malcovich, this both ingenious and absurd comedy follows a group of people and their inter-connecting lives whilst they fornicate, black mail and double cross whilst unaware of how closely linked they all are. 

Coens regular Francis McDormand plays a gym worker who along with friend Brad Pitt (on wondrously dorky form) find a CD detailing secrets from the CIA’s files, and so set about trying to blackmail the man responsible for loosing it, namely John Malcovich.  At the same time we have small time CIA operative George Clooney who is having an affair with Malcovich’s wife, but also finds time to date Francis McDormand, who is looking for love via internet dating.

As ever with the Coen Brothers, the appeal is in the casting and the dialogue, both of which positively shine, with Francis McDormand probably being the stand-out, although Clooney’s nervous, panicky performance is probably the funniest I’ve seen him do.  This is also full of surprises, and had me thrown back in my chair in shock on several occasions.  Like the brothers’ earlier The Big LeBowski this shines as a likable idiots out of their depth story, and I certainly came away entertained.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Man Who Wasn’t There

Viewed – 30 May 2008  Television

I’ve always been a fan of The Coen Brothers. The sibling directors have constantly delivered with the likes of Millers Crossing, Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou? and especially the sublime The Big Lebowski proving some of the most perfectly crafted and enjoyable films I have seen.  This one came about during a bit of a hiatus when they delivered big studio-backed fair such as Intolerable Cruelty and The Lady-killers which many consider miss-steps in their otherwise un-tarnished reputation. I myself didn’t enjoy ‘Cruelty, and feel the name was fittingly ironic.

Yet this gentle and fascinating murder mystery about a quite Barber who suspects his wife of having an affair was decidedly the Coens on form again – small town with likeable, fascinating characters that seem worthy of their own films alone. Billy Bob Thornton has the kind of face and personality born for a Coens film, and he doesn’t disappoint – and add excellent support from Coens regular Francis McDormond along with James Gandolfini complete with beautiful black & white cinematography and this sits proudly along with the Coens best.

Verdict: 4 /5