The Coen Brothers were scheduled to shoot Burn After Reading before No Country for Old Men but attempting to bring together a cast of this magnitude requires some shuffling. When it all comes together though, the result is extraordinary.
Osborne (John Malkovich) was a C.I.A. analyst until he quit after what he felt was an unfair demotion. Larry (George Clooney) is a U.S. Marshall and married philanderer who is sleeping with Osborne's wife (Tilda Swinton). He is also dating Linda (Frances McDormand), who along with her can-do best friend Chad (Brad Pitt) is blackmailing Osborne over some "sensitive" information found in the locker room at Hardbodies Fitness Center, where they work.
On the surface this sounds like it could be a political drama but when all the characters are blunderers it tends to go in a different direction. Designers faced a difficult task in making two of People's sexiest men alive into less attractive fools. For Clooney, it's thoroughly achieved via a gold chain and high-wasted pants; Pitt has terribly bleached hair and is always bouncing to the beat of an iPod.
While many of the characters' actions seem ridiculous, they actually have typical worries that plague the middle-aged – they're just slightly more exaggerated than most people's experiences.
The Coen Brothers have had their fair share of hits and misses over the years but this one is sure to be a winner. They wrote each part specifically for each actor and the players really step up to the challenge. Fortunately, they are all very strong and competent actors so no one overshadows anyone else. Nonetheless, JK Simmons has some of the best lines in the film as a C.I.A. superior.