I so rarely go and see new movies these days that it's a matter worth noting when I do. Which leads us to Burn After Reading, the new Coen Brothers movie, just released here in the UK. Now, it's no secret I'm a Coen Brothers fan. The Big Lebowski and Fargo rank amongst my favourite movies and others, such as O Brother Where Art Thou and Millers Crossing would also feature in any complete rundown.
But they make the occasional misstep, even when they're nothing less than interesting. Their version of The Ladykillers, for example, may well have amused people new to the plot but as a fan of the original I found it well enough acted, but lamentable. Burn After Reading isn't as disappointing, but nonetheless, it is somewhat disappointing.
Early reviews promised a movie in the same mold as Lebowski. A superlative cast (Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, JK Simmons, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and others) ensured word of mouth was good. But ultimately I left this movie feeling flat.
There are a number of major flaws in my mind. For starters, despite much comedy gurning from George Clooney, it's not actually that funny. To laugh it helps to sympathize with the characters, but there's very few in the movie who could be considered likable. It's a strange beast - George Clooney makes as unsympathetic character more sympathetic by virtue of his superb comic timing. While the Francis McDormand character should be the heart of the movie, but unlike her character in Fargo, she lacks heart and humanity.
The plot, concerning a disc of supposedly "sensitive" CIA material, is a labyrinth of betrayals and subdefuge, but not necessarily in the ways you expect, but it fails to really satirize the taste for spy thrillers that Hollywood seems in the grip of at the moment. Too pedestrian to be stimulating, again the lack of sympathy for the majority of the characters ensured that by the end of the movie I just didn't care.
It all just felt awkward. The script had a real Coen Brothers spin on the language employed. Everyone was great in their roles (Brad Pitt willfully moronic). But somehow, somewhere, something didn't click and I imagine the ending and the fates of certain characters will leave many, like me, walking out of the cinema asking "well, what was the point of all that?"
In a word - disappointing.