Matthew Lickona 1 p.m., March 7
Burn after Reading
The Coen brothers revisit their favored stupidity theme: Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, Fargo, The Big Lebowski (that one above all), O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the secondhand Ladykillers, at least the Llewellyn Moss protagonist in No Country for Old Men. Back to the well once more. The placement of this timeless theme within the Washington, D.C., intelligence community is, however, highly strategic, calculating, revitalizing, resonating, and, well, intelligent. (The memorable line from the original Manchurian Candidate swims up from the depths: “Intelligence officer! Stupidity officer is more like it.”) The central theme has been interlaced with secondary themes of deception, discontentment, self-delusion, double lives, so that while the film is unmistakably a comedy, it’s a pretty deep one. And regardless how repetitive the theme, there is no slacking off in technique and execution. The fast hour and a half is consistently, uninsistently funny, with only a rare lapse in taste (a homemade marital aid, a couple of splashes of Scorsese-esque gore) and never really a lapse in tone. And although the regular and reliable Roger Deakins has been replaced with Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, most noteworthily), the cinematography doesn’t suffer, with its crystal-clear air, its fine-line focus, and its scythe-like camerawork, angling slightly upwards, attacking from all sides, intermittently cutting a path in a spurt of purposeful fluidity. George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, Richard Jenkins, David Rasche, J.K. Simmons. 2008.
— Duncan Shepherd
- Rated R | 1 hour, 37 minutes
- Official website
- "Got Smart" • September 17, 2008