Burn After Reading

The Coen brothers' 2008 comedy opens with a satellite's eye view of the Earth (or Google Earth), then zooms down to CIA headquarters. What this not-so-divine perspective reveals is "a league of morons," as alcoholic former intelligence analyst John Malkovich calls his would-be blackmailers (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt). And, by extension, the label also fits his wife's lover (George Clooney) and himself. (As the scrupulously unfaithful wife, Tilda Swinton is simply incapable of seeming less than smart.) Most everyone's a fool in this violent spy caper, which is set within a '70s paranoid-espionage milieu. As these fools lie, cheat, and bungle their way through a few pools of blood, CIA bigwigs led by the priceless J.K. Simmons (the exasperated dad in Juno) try to figure out what's going on. Only they can't. Sure, they can aim their satellites, tap phones, trace emails, and even dispose of bodies, but our national intelligence is thwarted by, well, stupidity. (R) BRIAN MILLER

Fri., Dec. 18, 11:59 p.m.; Sat., Dec. 19, 11:59 p.m., 2009

 
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