Top critical review
Lots of Great Characters and Heavy Action but . . .
on March 28, 2009
Classed as one of 2008's more engrossing and spell-binding movies, "Burn After Reading" didn't quite live up to my expectations. Sure, I found the plot to be full of intrigue that only the Washington, D.C., scene could produce. The director, Ethan Coen, brings together a star-studded cast of big-name actors who, in the course of ninety minutes, manage to get in each other's way in a search to retain what is left of their crumbling lives. What they encounter in this adventure is a growing inability and futility to get other people to play along in their search for self-preservation. They are either too consumed with getting revenge for personal hurts or too fearful that they will lose their ill-gotten gains to really restart their lives. While the characters in this movie interconnect in strange and disturbing ways, they never really get to know each other in respect to what they want out of life. Consequently, they seem to be at continual cross-purposes with each other. Their only contact are coded messages, computer disks containing half-written memoirs, phone calls, and covert meetings in the most awkward of settings. No wonder there isn't a great deal of conflict resolution in this story. It is meant to reflect the world of disharmony and self-destruction, full of insecure people who are bent on exploiting others to stay ahead. There is one exception to this rule of the jungle: satisfaction has to come to the last person left standing who, in this case, happens to be the one who began the whole nasty affair in the first place. It is the unscrupulous woman gym trainer who started the extortion scheme in the first place. She gets her money in the end because it is strictly intended for improving her chances of employment: a face lift, breast implants and other cosmetic enhancements. The movie has some very funny moments where characters like Harry and Osbourne Cox play out their over-the-top sexual fantasies and paranoia, all in the name of trying to recover some hard-to-define, lost dignity. Overall, a decent watch except for the fact that the viewer has to really search for that unifying theme. It is there but lost in a lot of milling around.