The Burning Plain Reviews

Top Critic
Deborah Young
Hollywood Reporter
October 16, 2009
The burning is mostly on the plain, not in this labyrinthine story.
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Stephen Cole
Globe and Mail
October 16, 2009
Throw in enough symbolism to choke an English-lit major and you have a film challenge that too often feels like a chore.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Greg Quill
Toronto Star
October 16, 2009
If Arriaga had allowed us to spend more time with the key characters in this extended tragedy, or had spent some time punching up the plot, The Burning Plain might have had a chance.
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Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
October 2, 2009
Possibly the stories fit too neatly. If so, it's hardly a fatal flaw.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Tom Long
Detroit News
September 25, 2009
It's serious stuff, intended for serious movie people. The only problem is, serious movie people have already been there, done that.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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Andrea Gronvall
Chicago Reader
September 25, 2009
The result is confusion, not catharsis.
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Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
September 25, 2009
The film is strikingly photographed and intensely acted, but the tone is overwrought melodrama.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 25, 2009
Initially, the puzzle structure and a pair of Oscar-winning actresses distract us from the dark vacuum at the center of this enterprise, but when it implodes, it doesn't reverberate.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
September 23, 2009
The scenery (prettily captured by There Will Be Blood cinematographer Robert Elswit) is littered with heavy symbolism (fire! rain! dead birds!); the performances are merely heavy.
Full Review | Original Score: D+
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A.O. Scott
New York Times
September 18, 2009
The elliptical structure of the narrative can't cover up its overheated, half-baked banality.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/5
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Scott Tobias
AV Club
September 18, 2009
Arriaga's achronological, everything-is-connected screenplays lost their originality and surprise, and started to become more like shtick.
Full Review | Original Score: D+
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V.A. Musetto
New York Post
September 18, 2009
That fractured structure worked well for Arriaga in his scripts for other directors. Here the characters aren't compelling enough to ask viewers to give their brains a workout to determine exactly what's going on.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4
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Ted Fry
Seattle Times
September 17, 2009
The emotional elements in all the plot threads are tremendously earnest, but Arriaga's manipulation of time and his abrupt shifts in focus ultimately detract from the knotty narrative puzzle.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
September 17, 2009
Told chronologically, it might have accumulated considerable power. Told as a labyrinthine tangle of intercut timelines and locations, it is a frustrating exercise in self-indulgence by writer-director Guillermo Arriaga.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Nicolas Rapold
Time Out
September 16, 2009
For all the pretenses of roiling or suffocated desires, the cast appears to have been ordered to deaden all sensation (except for Basinger, who frets away in an underwritten part).
Full Review | Original Score: 1/5
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Aaron Hillis
Village Voice
September 15, 2009
The Burning Plain marks Arriaga's behind-the-camera debut, and his obviousness is staggering.
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Michael Phillips
At the Movies
September 8, 2009
It's not really a who-done-it, it's more of a when'd-ya-guess-it and a who-cares.
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A.O. Scott
At the Movies
September 8, 2009
In The Burning Plain we follow three-or maybe four-different stories that ultimately converge in ways that are both utterly predictable and completely preposterous.
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Tirdad Derakhshani
Philadelphia Inquirer
April 2, 2009
A classic melodrama about thwarted desire, failed relationships, and unrealized dreams, Plain delivers solid turns from a stellar cast.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Derek Elley
Variety
August 29, 2008
Despite an OK-to-good cast led by Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, plus a handsome tech package, this remains an elaborate writing exercise with few emotional hooks.