Follow Us on Twitter

Burn After Reading - Preview

Burn After Reading

Preview by Jack Foley

BURN After Reading, the new film from the Coen Brothers, is due to open the 2008 Venice Film Festival on August 27, 2008, and looks set to become another classic from the guys who previously brought us Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, The Big Lebowski and last year’s Oscar winner No Country For Old Men.

Boasting a stellar ensemble cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins, it’s a black comedy that is based upon an original idea by the brothers.

At the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Arlington, analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) arrives for a top-secret meeting. Unfortunately for Cox, the secret is soon out: he is being ousted.

Cox does not take the news particularly well and returns to his Georgetown home to work on his memoirs and his drinking, not necessarily in that order. His wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is dismayed, though not particularly surprised; she is already well into an illicit affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), a married federal marshal, and sets about making plans to leave Cox for Harry.

Elsewhere in the Washington, DC suburbs, and seemingly worlds apart, Hardbodies Fitness Centers employee Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) can barely concentrate on her work. She is consumed with her life plan for extensive cosmetic surgery, and confides her mission to can-do colleague Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt).

Linda is all but oblivious to the fact that the gym’s manager Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins) pines for her even as she arranges dates via the Internet with other men.

When a computer disc containing material for the CIA analyst’s memoirs accidentally falls into the hands of Linda and Chad, the duo are intent on exploiting their find.

As Ted frets “no good can come of this” events spiral out of everyone’s and anyone’s control, in a cascading series of darkly hilarious encounters.

Co-star Swinton describes Burn After Reading as “a kind of monster caper movie”, adding: “All of us are monsters – like, true monsters. It’s ridiculous. It’s much lighter than No Country For Old Men.”

The trailer certainly looks terrific – set to Elbow’s Grounds For Divorce – and seems to suggest a sharp blend of dark humour and blood-soaked violence.

Malkovich, in particulary, looks to be on fine form, and jumped at the chance of working with the Coens, even though – according to Entertainment Weekly – the first scene he performed was a phone call in which he shouts several obscenities at Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand, despite not being on-set.

Owing to the fact he was rehearsing a play at the time, Malkovich had to call in the lines from his apartment in Paris and commented afterwards: “It was really late at night and I was screaming at the top of my lungs. God knows what the neighbours thought!”

Burn After Reading will see numerous reunions among cast members and filmmakers. The Coens, for instance, have worked with Clooney, Jenkins and McDormand numerous times before, while Clooney and Pitt are best known for their camaraderie in the Ocean’s 11 movies.

Clooney has also worked with Tilda Swinton before – on last year’s Michael Clayton – and continues their spiky on-screen relationship (despite having an affair with her in the movie).

Asked recently why they liked working with Clooney so much, the Coen brothers were pretty clear on what makes the heart-throb actor special…

Ethan began the tributes, by stating: “George Clooney is special because he’s always ready to play an idiot!”

To which brother Joel added: “It’s funny, on the last day of shooting on the movie we just did, Ethan said: “That’s a wrap!” And George said: “OK, I’ve played my last idiot!” So I guess he won’t be working with us again [laughs].”

We’ll see as it’s proving to be a beautiful collaboration…

Burn After Reading opens in UK cinemas on October 17, 2008. Watch the trailer