Bleak, bleaker, bleakest: Burn after reading

This was the second film I’ve been to see since Kolya was born last May. So maybe it was a problem of elevated expectations – Woo hoo! the new Coen brothers movie! – after a year of almost no movies at all. Maybe watching George Clooney playing a gutless, leery sex addict with no redeeming features behind his smooth and cheesy smile was just a wee bit close to home for me. Maybe I’m just a pushover for a glimmer of hope and optimism amongst all the nihilism and noir. Dunno. But when the lights went up after the grim ending on this film, you could almost hear the audience wanting to groan: So what?

Plotwise, it’s a comedy of errors: ageing CIA agent Cox quits his job, and happens to misplace a CD containing some arbitrary “secret shit”, which falls into the hands of a couple of gym employees. They hope to squeeze some money out of Cox, and in the process, everyone gets screwed.  The real feat of imagination was the creation of a full-length film with an ensemble of characters who have barely a single redeeming feature between them. A more loveless, clueless bunch of characters you would be hard-pressed to imagine. Each of the protagonists are spineless, stupid and selfish. It makes for bleak watching.

Weirdly, of course, because the brothers Coen are so damn fine at what they do, it still pulls you forward, wondering How are these morons going to get themselves out of this mess? And as you’re knocked back by each further round of inanity, you still can’t help waiting for someone – somehow – to redeem themselves. They don’t.

I took a scout around the online reviews of this film to find out whether I was alone in my opprobrium. Seems not. In my opinion, this one pretty much sums it up. Or, as another online reviewer put it, “Go see Burn After Reading, but expect to Forget After Seeing.”


About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
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One Response to Bleak, bleaker, bleakest: Burn after reading

  1. Janine says:

    Awww. And here I was, all set to go and watch it on Saturday. Still going to though, because nothing, but nothing, could keep me from staring at John Malkovich. 🙂

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