Burn After Reading
The Coen Brothers have made a series of unsual films that I find captivating.� Blood Simple was the first in this series.� It showed from a basic misunderstanding very deadly consequences can ensue.� It was a drama.� Burn After Reading is a film that uses the same theme to develop plot but to comedic effect.
Though I know Joel and Ethan Coen are not mathematicians and Burn After Reading (released in 2008) was not intentionally made to illustrate Chaos Theory, it does just that.� It shows how a simple misinterpretation can have enormous unforeseen affect upon the principal players.� Before I discuss the movie, consider an idea from Chaos Theory.� It states that in a non-linear system a small difference in initial conditions can produce effects that go far beyond their initial input.� There are many different ways the theory has been described in math literature, but this is the most general definition.� It's considered non-linear because in a linear system the output is proportional to the input in function.� Example, take the function F(x)= 2x + 1.� For every input we get a predictable output.� In a chaotic equation (which I won't show, less I digress from the topic of this essay), the opposite would happen.� Inputs would beget extremely different outputs.� I should mention that, iteration is usually how these equations are developed, that is the output is taken as the input and the process is repeated.� This is what leads to the chaotic effect.� Remember this as we go on.� Because I hope to show this movie, didn't intend to show chaotic progress, yet it does just that.� That is, shows a chaotic development unfolding.
Now, let's turn to the film.�
In begins with a Ozzie Cox (John Malkovich) a CIA analyst, that is becoming an alcoholic, being informed of a demotion.� This scene is hilarious to watch.� After this meeting, Cox is disgruntle and takes the rash step of quitting.� He explains this to his unfaithful British wife (Tilda Swinton) and begins writing a memoir of his years with the CIA.� The Coen brothers hint but don't explicitly state that Cox is no big deal to the CIA. He's a minor agent, with little importance to this gigantic spy organization.� In addition to the Cox character, there are host of other players some of which know each and other don't.� Let's list them:
� There is Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney) one the funniest people in the movie. He is a treasury agent that has a gun he always carries and is proud let any and everybody know.� He's also an egotistical sex maniac that is philandering with Cox's wife, Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton).� Add to this, being an egomaniac, he regularly runs to keep in shape.� This activity leads him to suspect he's being watched.
� Katie Cox is the cruel, adulterous wife that works to Ozzie's detriment throughout the film.
� Then there is Linda Litsky (Frances Mcdormand,), a physical therapist at a Washington, D.C., fitness clinic called: Hardbodies, Inc.� She was also the police officer in Fargo.� She is another egotist, neurotically concerned with her aging body and wants to have several plastic surgeries to make herself more attractive to men.� Linda is an addictive Internet love searcher.� Every time she spoke I laughed.� He demeanor itself evokes laughter from me.
� Harry's children's books writer wife, Sandy Pfarrer (Elizabeth Marvel), she plays a minor part as the deceived wife, who is also deceiving her gun-toting husband Harry.
� A co-worker of Linda is Chad (Brad Pitt), a young, dumb bodybuilder coach, and the funniest jerk in the picture.� This na�ve, avaricious kid and Linda Litsky team up to extort money from Ozzie with tragic consequences for Chad.�
� Lastly, there is Ted (Richard Jenkins) the owner of Hardbodies, Inc, a shy, weak-willed man that is caught up in something he doesn't understand and that sadly he will be a victim of.
Now that we know the players let's get to the chaos part, that is mathematical chaos.� Chad is given a CD of Cox's memoir writing by a Mexican janitor at Hardbodies.� It contains Cox's reflections of his time as an agent with the agency.� It is full of really useless information about his life with the CIA.� This is our chaotic seed, every chaos equation has a seed, and this seed starts the process.� Chad is intrigued and shows it to Ted, who doesn't want any part of it, but when Linda sees it she envisions her much hoped for, plastic surgeries.� The two conceive a scheme of extortion with Ozzie Cox as the target.� From this kernel unimaginable consequences result.
Well the CIA is following everything.� They have an agent tailing Harry the treasury agent and virtually everybody else.� It is interesting to note here, the Coen's portray the CIA as a self-sustaining organization absorbed with its continuity and control of those in any way involved with it. The scenes in which a senior agent has interview sessions with his superior, direct us through the ever growing complexity of the story.
Chad finds Cox's number and Linda and him set about a plan to extort money from him.� This scene is so comical I had to stop the DVD and replay it a few times.� Cox is infuriated but agrees to meet with Chad.� The meeting doesn't go well.� He gets Chad in his car and after not convincing him to return the CD, he punches and threatens him. It results in a crazy car chase sequence.� Next, the two nitwit conspirators figure well maybe the Russians would be interested in this CD stuff.� You see, that our chaotic development is already leading to growing divergence.� Next Harry's wife is off on a nationwide book tour of her new children's book.� Harry, an irrepressible woman chaser has encounters with nameless women via the Internet.� Well, Linda is an internet sex prowler too and eventual the two meet and make out.� Now the next step in this chaotic process is set.� Neither is aware that they have connections to Cox.�
The plan to extort Cox didn't work and the Russians inform Chad and Linda that their material is useless.� Linda wants her plastic surgeries and Chad is just a dope who wants to profit from the Cox connection.� So, she suggests he break into Cox's house and steal some more stuff.� This suggestion leads to the most comedic murder sequence I�ve ever watched.� I won�t go on describing this film in detail now, but end with a strong nod of approval.� Hey, see this flick it will keep you rolling in your seat!
Oh, I almost forgot the Chaos Theory aspect.� Well this takes a little explaining.� In Chaos Theory, the idea is this:
Given a non-linear system small differences in initial conditions can have non-linear effects upon the outcomes in these systems. �This means small changes or aspects of any physical world configuration can have tremendous effects on succeeding events.� Now, think of this film and its unfolding, didn�t one little mistake the Mexican janitor finding a CD of Malkovich�s lead to the extraordinary results? I rest my case.
Oh, I could go on and bore you with things like how this reverberated throughout the film in a deterministic way, and how this shows that any chaotic system reaches a point of equilibrium, but I won�t.