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Burn After Reading (2008)

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A disk containing the memoirs of a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous gym employees who attempt to sell it.

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Nominated for 2 Golden Globes. Another 5 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Ted
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CIA Superior (as JK Simmons)
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J.R. Horne ...
Divorce Lawyer (as JR Horne)
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Armand Schultz ...
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Storyline

Osbourne Cox, a Balkan expert, resigned from the CIA because of a drinking problem, so he begins a memoir. His wife wants a divorce and expects her lover, Harry, a philandering State Department marshal, to leave his wife. A CD-ROM falls out of a gym bag at a Georgetown fitness center. Two employees there try to turn it into cash: Linda, who wants money for cosmetic surgery, and Chad, an amiable goof. Information on the disc leads them to Osbourne who rejects their sales pitch; then they visit the Russian embassy. To sweeten the pot, they decide they need more of Osbourne's secrets. Meanwhile, Linda's boss likes her, and Harry's wife leaves for a book tour. All roads lead to Osbourne's house. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

memoir | gym | cia | embassy | divorce | See All (146) »

Taglines:

Intelligence is only their job. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Official Sites:

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Country:

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Release Date:

12 September 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Quémese después de leerse  »

Box Office

Budget:

$37,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$19,128,001 (USA) (12 September 2008)

Gross:

$60,338,891 (USA) (19 December 2008)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Linda and Harry go to the theater to watch "Coming Up Daisy", the board displaying showtimes lists "Hail Caeser" as being one of the films showing at the theater. This is a reference to Hail, Caesar!, the 2016 Coen Brother's film of the same name, which would not be produced for eight more years. See more »

Goofs

On his 5.2 mile run, after crossing the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Harry runs north up a steep hill on 35th Street, and a black car passes him from behind. In reality, this street runs one-way in the opposite direction. Also, the car appears to continue straight through the intersection, but is then seen going east on Prospect Street; Harry watches it drive away while facing northwest, then turns and jogs away in the same direction the car went, passing the same tree that the car just passed. See more »

Quotes

Krapotkin: It was nothing. Drivel.
Linda Litzke: Dribble?
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Crazy Credits

Cort Hessler's name appears twice. He was a Stunt Driver on the film. See more »

Connections

References Meet Joe Black (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Update: "On The Floor" Written by Taryn Murphy and Chris Landon. Performed by Taryn Murphy. Taryn Murphy was signed with South Beach Music Group as indicated at this link: http://www.mi2n.com/press.php3?press_nb=22692 . The song "On The Floor" was commissioned by South Beach Music Group's Executive Producer Ron Kersey ( http://www.southbeachmusicgroup.com ) in 2001. Kersey commissioned the song for promotional use which was distributed to the trendy South Beach area of Miami Beach night clubs to gain exposure for his then recording artist Taryn http://www.tarynmurphy.com . As of yet the song has never been made available for distribution!
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Tonight We Laugh
11 September 2008 | by (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

Norman Cousins would have loved the Coen Brothers' "Burn After Reading." The late great Saturday Review editor had treated his illness with Marx Brothers movies, having "made the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep."

I have never felt healthier than after 96 minutes of explosive and grateful laughter at the "Burn" screening, also marveling at the array of British-stage caliber acting from "Fargo"-invoking Frances McDormand, witchy-icy Tilda Swinton, a more-manic-than-ever John Malkovich, and a dozen major players, such as J.K. Simmons as the deadpan CIA boss and Richard Jenkins as the former Greek Orthodox priest, now running an upscale gym.

Others may lead the cast list with George Clooney and Brad Pitt, but to me, their performances were just a bit on the self-conscious side, trying too hard. At any rate, it's a great cast, and while the plot might have turned into a dud in somebody else's treatment, the Coen Brothers' writing is hilarious, their zingers deadly.

A critic, probably with bad digestion, has decried this "very black comedy set in a blanched, austere-looking Washington, D.C. — an uninspiring and uncomfortable place in which everyone betrays everyone else, and the emotional tone veers from icy politeness to spitting rage and back again." If I had a chance to think, instead of enjoying "Burn," I would have contemplated Molière and Evelyn Waugh, their comedies of manners, psychological insight, and unbridled great humor.

Yes, there are betrayals (none better than the totally unexpected one at the end of the film), and there is rage, but all contained within a glorious bubble of writing-directing-acting excellence. "Burn" grips and holds, surprises and entertains, it is a virtuoso piece.

Don't be misled by the a "action-trailer" on TV, saturating the airwaves; it says nothing of the film. Malkovich punching Pitt over a compromising CD of spook stuff is not at the heart of this - the McDormand character's pursuit of cosmetic surgery is, what with her self-examination, a lengthy session with the surgeon (Jeffrey DeMunn, in a brilliant turn), her desperate quest for a way to pay for it. Funny and going deep at the same time, "Burn" presents a series of character studies (hence the thought of Molière), in the context of mannered yet true social interactions (Waugh).

Skip descriptions of the plot, reject self-righteous denunciations of smart skepticism and charming evil, go and wallow in life-affirming laughter.


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