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Burn After Reading (2008)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime, Drama  |  12 September 2008 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 231,474 users   Metascore: 63/100
Reviews: 538 user | 332 critic | 37 from

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 6 wins & 17 nominations. See more awards »



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


Osbourne Cox, a Balkan expert, is fired at the CIA, 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 diskette 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 elective 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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

memoir | gym | cia | embassy | divorce | See All (137) »


Intelligence is only their job. See more »


Comedy | Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »


| |


Release Date:

12 September 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Quémese después de leerse  »

Box Office


$37,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

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


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

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Joel Coen:  [The Films of Stanley Kubrick]  The sound emitted by the homing scanner from Bowman's space pod in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) is heard in the opening titles. Harry Pfarrer's house number is 114, a nod to Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Linda Litzke refers to her "Mickey Mouse H.M.O." provided by Hardbodies, a nod to Full Metal Jacket (1987). See more »


When Osbourne is getting demoted, a gold pen keeps appearing and disappearing on the desk. See more »


Chad Feldheimer: Osbourne Cox?
Osbourne Cox: Yes, this is Osbourne Cox, who the FUCK are YOU?
See more »

Crazy Credits

There is credit for 'The Walrus' See more »


Written by Tuli Kupferberg
Performed by The Fugs
Courtesy of Edward Sanders / Heavy Metal Music
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Coen Brothers don't make bad movies - they don't know how :)
15 September 2008 | by (Virginia, USA) – See all my reviews

After their Oscar winning turn last year, The Coen Brothers are back with the new film, this time comedy/crime/spy story which is very funny, very dark, quite angry, at times surreal, always ironic and to put it simply a must see for any Coens' fan which means a fan of great movie making. Comparing to the last year's Oscar Winner, No Country for Old Men, their new film may seem much lighter and provides many laughs. But keep in mind, it is comedy: Coens' style and it means that not always the most likable characters get what they look for. As much as the film is funny, it actually paints very disturbing picture about stupidly, idiocy, incompetence, inability to see one step ahead of your actions that keep filling every aspect of our existence with dangerous speed. I loved it - from the very first scene to the end. I laughed a lot, enjoyed the dialogs and the acting. How could I not with the dream cast that include John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Francis McDormand, and very funny and deliciously clueless, Brad Pitt, and many familiar faces in the small cameos. George Clooney who has made three films with The Coens got the funniest scenes, and gave IMO one of his best performances. John Malkovich has got to come out of his semi-retirement and act more. His every appearance in the film as forced to quit his job, very angry CIA Analyst who then decided to write a memoir, was a blast. Tilda Swinton as an arrogant icy cold professional woman, and Frances MacDormand as Linda who would stop at nothing in order to "re-invent herself", both added to the film's multiple delights.

This time, Coens' usual collaborator, Roger Deakins was not director of photography, instead, Emmanuel Lubezki, four times Oscar Nominee (for Children of Men, The New World, Sleepy Hollow, and A Little Princess) took care of camera-work. The film has very beautiful look to it, and I was happy to recognize some of my favorite places in Washington, DC and George Town.

134 of 253 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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