Burn After Reading appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film came with a mediocre transfer.
Sharpness was decent but erratic. Some noticeable edge enhancement creates moderate softness at times, as the haloes in wide shots made things a bit murky. Most of the time the movie offered good delineation, but too many edge exceptions occurred. I noticed no jaggies or shimmering, and source flaws remained infrequent. I saw a couple of small specks but nothing more.
Colors tended to look bland. The movie featured a fairly natural palette, but the colors remained somewhat dull at times. Blacks were reasonably dark and tight, while shadows were a little thick. Low-light shots showed acceptable delineation but could seem slightly dense. Overall, this was a drab presentation.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Burn wasn’t great, but it seemed competent. Most of the movie focused on general ambience. The front and rears speakers added a decent sense of place, and a few louder elements like thunder occasionally added a little zest to the proceedings. Music also boasted nice stereo delineation. However, the film’s scope remained limited, so we didn’t get much to make the mix stand out from the crowd.
Audio quality appeared fine. Speech showed good delineation and clarity, as the lines remained natural. Effects didn’t have much to do, but they offered acceptable accuracy and life. Music worked best, as the score seemed dynamic and full. Nothing here turned this into a great mix, but it deserved a “B-”.
Only a few extras accompany Burn. Finding the Burn runs five minutes, 30 seconds as it presents notes from writers/directors/producers Joel and Ethan Coen and actors Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and Richard Jenkins. “Finding” looks at the project’s story and a few aspects of the shoot. It falls into the category of “promotional featurette” and provides few insights. Fans might give it a look for some shots from the set, but they’ll learn almost nothing about the production.
For the 12-minute and 23-second DC Insiders Run Amok, we hear from Joel and Ethan Coen, Jenkins, McDormand, Clooney, Swinton, Malkovich, costume designer Mary Zophres, and production designer Jess Gonchor. “Amok” examines cast, characters and performances, sets and locations. “Amok” definitely provides more substance than “Finding”, especially when we hear from Zophres; she offers some nice notes about the visual design for some characters. The piece never becomes terribly substantial, but it includes a few decent insights.
Welcome Back George goes for two minutes, 50 seconds. It features Joel and Ethan Coen, Clooney, Malkovich, and Zophres. “George” works just like the character aspects of “Amok” except it concentrates solely on Clooney’s role. Why not include this snippet as part of “Amok”? I don’t know. It’s interesting but it has no reason to stand on its own.
The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Hamlet 2, Milk, The Big Lebowski, The Office, Beethoven’s Big Break and Blu-Ray Disc. No trailer for Burn appears here.
After the drama of their Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men, the Coen brothers take a lighter touch with Burn After Reading - “lighter” being a relative term, of course, since the Coens stick with their particular brand of dark comedy. The movie delivers moderate charms but ultimately disappoints. While it boasts a great cast and creates intrigue in its first half, it sputters too much in its final half and fails to deliver the goods.
As for the DVD, it also disappoints. It gives us acceptable audio but suffers from somewhat muddy picture quality, and it also lacks substantial extras. Coen fans will want to give this one a look, but I can’t give it a recommendation to others.