Any film starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt and John Malkovich is surely going to be of interest. But when you throw in written, directed and produced by Ethan and Joel Coen – well, you’ve got a smash hit before you start. After the dark and enigmatic No Country For Old Men, this is a return to pure entertainment – a light, black comedy in the best traditions of cinematic farce – with a couple of surprising moments of random violence thrown in for good measure.
The story opens slowly, meandering around the offbeat lives of bitter and volatile Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) and his brutally severe wife Katie (Tilda Swinton). He’s just been sacked from his job as a low level analyst in the CIA for drinking too much, and she – having an affair with Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) – is about to file for divorce. Advised by her lawyer to get a complete record of her husband’s financial situation, Katie copies computer files onto a disk which then gets accidentally left on the floor of a gym. The disk is retrieved by gym workers Linda (Francis McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt), who decide to extract a reward from Osbourne Cox, whose unimportant memoirs are also on the disk. When Cox refuses to pay them, Linda and Chad decide to raise the stakes a little. They take the disk to the Russians. All the while, senior agents at CIA headquarters are struggling to work out who is doing what to whom, and deal with the trail of destruction left by a bunch of people who have no idea what they are doing. (The Coen brothers have publicly declared that “idiocy” is the major theme of the film.)
It’s a quirky, delicious comedy with an A-list cast clearly enjoying every moment of their screen time. Malkovich takes Osbourne Cox to new heights of apoplectic performance, and Brad Pitt – as the innocent air-head – steals the show with a couple of hilarious scenes. You’ll laugh a lot, be shocked a couple of times and enjoy all 96 minutes. It wont linger much beyond that.