DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Burn After Reading, Blu-ray (2008)

It’s interesting how the Coens banked off Clooney’s role in "Syriana" and Swinton’s character in "Michael Clayton" in the plot of "Burn."

Published on December 17, 2008

Burn After Reading, Blu-ray (2008)
Burn After Reading, Blu-ray (2008)

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton
Studio: Universal [Release date: Dec. 21, 08]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 widescreen, 1080i HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 2.0, French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: “Finding the Burn” featurette on making of the film, “DC Insiders Run Amuck” featurette, “Welcome Back George” comedy piece on Clooney’s return to collaborate with Coen Bros., BD Live features
Length: 1 hour 36 min.
Rating: *****

I believe this is the first Blu-ray I’ve seen that was 1080i instead of 1080p.  I didn’t know that when viewing it and frankly couldn’t tell any difference.  Seldom have I enjoyed seeing the Blu-ray version so soon after seeing the feature in the theater.  Two reasons: I could easily rewind, repeat and even slow down some of the most amazing scenes, such as the mayhem that goes on at Osborne’s house near the end of the film. And at home, watching my 56” screen with perfectly-balanced surround sound, I was free of the complete idiot who sat two seats on my left and laughed loudly and uproariously thru most of the film – obscuring much of the dialog – until he was finally asked by an usher to shut up.

The Coens say in the making-of featurette that they were writing this new film at the same time they were shooting No Country for Old Men. So perhaps Burn was a much lighter vehicle – a comedy for a change of pace.  Still, the quirky brothers haven’t eliminated the scenes where people get shot – although they did show one bit of mayhem only from afar with another only talked about by two characters rather than shown.  The Coens say Burn was an opportunity for them to take handsome heroes such as Clooney, Pitt and Swinton and make them complete idiots on-screen.  An author’s novel provided most of the convoluted plot, which one viewer characterized as a D.C. Beltway remake of their cult hit The Big Lebowski. Everyone seems to be having mid-life crises, except Chad, the Brad Pitt character, who – though he laughably tries to be cool – is so dumb he lacks those concerns.  He and Linda (McDormand) work in a fitness gym and accidentally come across a data DVD containing part of a novel alcoholic former CIA analyst Osborne (Malkovich) has been writing.  They believe it to be some top-secret CIA material and try to blackmail Osborne for its return. When that doesn’t work they take it to the Russian Embassy.  Things progress in various unexpected and absurdist directions from there.   It’s interesting how the Coens banked off Clooney’s role in Syriana and Swinton’s character in Michael Clayton in the plot of Burn.

After seeing the extras I viewed the film again with a new understanding of some of the details, such as the costume person’s references to what was chosen to comment on various characters, and even costume changes developing a single character, such as Osborne going from CIA business suit to underwear and bathrobe as he becomes progressively unhinged. Also, I hadn’t understood that the, ah…highly unusual contraption… which Clooney’s character had been building in his basement was intended for his wife when she returned from her book tour.

 
- John Sunier



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