Running Time: 96 mins
Rated: Rated MA 15+ (infrequent strong violence, coarse language)
After the grim excellence of No Country for Old Men, what would the Coen Brothers do next? They haven't taken very long to show us: a Washington DC drama that moves into comedy that revels in spoof. And most audiences are going to find it very funny indeed. Who would have that (and this does not spoil film viewing) that a final scene between two supporting actors talking in an office would be so hilarious?
George Clooney is back in a daft character, after working with the Coens for O Brother Where Art Thou and Intolerable Cruelty. Frances Mc Dormand is back (she is Mrs Joel Coen) and has worked for them often, most memorably in her Oscar-winning turn in Fargo. There is also a sharp-tongued angry Tilda Swinton, a soul-searching Richard Jenkins and a disillusioned CIA operative played with zest by John Malkovich. The advertising has focused on Brad Pitt but he is in a supporting role - nevertheless he steals the film with his very funny characterisation of a rather limited-witted assistant at a gym, working with McDormand for Jenkins. His look, his body language, his behaviour contributes to a performance well worth seeing.
In fact, all the cast are worth seeing, Clooney doing some dumb things, Frances McDormand on her high horse to raise money for four bouts of elective body improving surgery, Malkovich at this wit's end.
You wonder at the opening how a firing at the CIA, a Treasury worker and his children's story book writing wife and three characters at the gym could possibly come together, but come together they do and the plot becomes more and more entangled and enjoyable.
There is slapstick and farce as well as witty (if too often peppered with swearing) dialogue. This is especially the case with J.K. Simmons as the CIA head (really doing a repeat of his editor role in Spiderman) but, with perfect timing, he sends up the world of espionage, Washington decisions and responsibilities and cover-up.
The Coens have done it again.
Universal Out October 16
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.