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Burn After Reading
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Reviews & Ratings for
Burn After Reading More at IMDbPro »

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20 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

What a Shocker!

Author: andyritchie999 from United Kingdom
19 October 2008

I was expecting great things from this movie - my appetite had been whetted by an amusing trailer (which sadly contained all the funny moments which the movie had to offer), by the presence of the likes of Bard Pitt, George Clooney and John Malkovich, and by the fact that the film as directed by the Coen brothers whose most recent film, No Country for Old Men, I thought was excellent. Alas, Burn After Reading was a huge disappointment - incredibly slow, confused, unsure of what type of movie it really wants to be. There are a couple of genuinely funny moments, one or two shocks, but that's it. This was described as a 'comedy' thriller but, in comparison to the likes of Big Lebowski or Oh Brother Where Art Thou, it simply isn't one! In short, a bit of a turkey!

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20 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

not their best but still very funny

Author: Roland E. Zwick ( from United States
13 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Burn After Reading" shows what happens when a couple of bungling amateurs attempt to beat the big boys of the C.I.A. at their own game.

Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand are the D.C.-based health club workers who stumble across a computer disc that they believe contains top secret, classified information. In actuality, it's the property of Osbourne Cox, a C.I.A. analyst who has recently been let go from the agency, and who is composing his memoirs as an act of retaliation against his former bosses. Tilda Swinton plays Osbourne's harridan wife who's having an affair with a tic-plagued, exercise-obsessed married man embodied by George Clooney. The discovery of the disc leads to a roundelay of false assumptions and comical misunderstandings all wrapped up in an intricately plotted scenario dripping with situational ironies.

"Burn After Reading" is Joel and Ethan Coen's darkly humorous follow-up to their Oscar-winning masterpiece, "No Country for Old Men," a grimly serious work that took little time out for comic relief (and earned them bucket loads of awards for doing so). This new film finds the boys back in the more familiar terrain of "Fargo" and "The Big Lebowski," where the laughs outnumber the gasps by a healthy margin. "Burn After Reading" certainly adheres to the customary Coen Brothers formula where a heightened quirkiness and a deliberately disjointed storyline are coupled with sudden flare-ups of violence and the unexpected deaths of major characters.

While the refusal to follow a predictable narrative path is one of the chief selling points of any Coen Brothers film, the fact of the matter is that, in the case of "Burn After Reading," the script probably could have used a few more revisions to bring the disparate elements more satisfactorily in line with one another. Too often it feels as if the movie itself is rambling around pointlessly, without any clear direction or purpose. For one thing, many of the scenes that might have served as the connecting tissue holding the various story lines together seem to have been - perhaps deliberately - left on the cutting-room floor. We're laughing along with the craziness all right, but we're also hoping against hope that the filmmakers will find a way to bring it all together in the end. Instead, what we get is a sit-down synopsis of events that is probably the least successful finale of that sort since the closing scene in "Psycho." For if viewers think they were frustrated by the truncated ending in "No Country," they ain't seen nuttin' yet.

The best thing about "Burn After Reading" is the delicious performances from a cast that any director would give his eyeteeth to work with. Malkovich, McDormand, Clooney, and Swinton all manage to define their characters through individualized quirks without ever going over the top and reducing their characters to caricatures. But it is Pitt who steals every scene he's in as the nerdy, hyper kinetic doofus who fancies himself a double-naught spy fit to stand alongside the James Bonds of the world. Pitt has rarely been this winning.

Now don't get me wrong. "Burn After Reading" is a frequently hilarious film that is vastly preferable to all those cookie-cutter comedies that can be found habitually ensconced in the neighborhood multiplexes. But it's not exactly prime Coen Brothers either, and, for that reason, I have to make this only a halfhearted recommendation. But, then again, even inferior Coen Brothers is better than no Coen Brothers at all.

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25 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

i really don't get it!

Author: yeketi02 from Sweden
31 October 2008

I might sound very negative but i really don't get this movie. Comedy is comedy but this is no where close to comedy. A spoil of great actors and a true waste of staff and efforts. Using Pitt for such a lousy and short act is just a big waste in my opinion. Not saying he or others did not act well, in fact all actors did a great job in performing and carrying out their roles but this wasn't a comedy nor a movie worth script.

I got so disappointed that i was struggling to sit and watch till the end of this movie..

please somebody explain to me the high rating and those extremely over positive comments.


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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Appearances Can Be Deceptive

Author: jerica-tripp from United States
4 May 2014

Burn After Reading is about tow gym employees Linda (played by Frances McDormand) and Chad (played by Brad Pitt). They unwittingly come into possession of a CIA agent named Osborne's (played by John Malkovich) memoirs. Believing this to be top-secret government information they try to sell it. Harry, Osborne's wife's lover is brought into this mix of characters. George Clooney plays Harry.

The major theme of the film is idiocy. The Coen Brothers themselves stated this as a theme of the film in an interview. This is very evident in the character's idiotic behavior throughout the film. Chad's character was especially dumb. The character's unintelligent behavior is the main catalyst for the film's development. Idiocy as a theme is evident as Chad and Linda attempt to sell the disc of memoirs to the Russian Embassy. The Coen Brothers have used this theme before. The Big Lebowski also used idiocy as its central theme. The character Walter (played by John Goodman) was an idiot, a lovable, gun- crazy idiot. He would relate any situation back to the war, which would add nothing to the conversation. The Coen Brothers have a true affinity for characterization as is evident in both The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading. The film constantly focuses on a single character's dumb-founded face. This enforces the theme. The angle of the camera is direct. The scene that best encompasses this is the scene where Chad meets up with Osborne to sell him the memoirs. The camera focuses on Chad's face and allows Brad Pitt's acting to shine. He can really show the expressions of Chad's dumb face. The second is the use of motif. The film keeps the viewer on the outside looking in. We are not part of the action, only viewing it. I believe this adds to the film's over-all feeling. The Coen Brothers are great at creating very original characters. The motif is of single character monologues and two characters intense dialog. Such as Osborne being on the phone with the bank. We are able to develop a better interpretation of his character. He is angry and assumes the banker is an idiot.

This is seen again when Osborne encounters Chad in his car. We are able to see Chad's idiocy shine as he twice repeats, "appearances can be deceptive". This phrase I believe encapsulates the whole them of the film. Chad is an idiot but is trying to sound smart. Appearances can be deceiving, but in the case of this film, no character is capable of appearing smart.


Boggs, J. & Petrie, J. (2008). The Art of Watching Films. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies

Coen, E. (Director). (2008). Burn After Reading (DVD) : Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Coen, J. (Director). (1998). The big Lebowski

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Different Characters for Each Actor,with Strange and Entertaining Development,

Author: Dillon Harris from Ireland
16 December 2013

Burn After Reading is a great movie with a very well written storyline with a very talented cast that offer unique performances.The movie is definitely strange even for the Coen brothers standards,mainly because of the characters and how they develop over the course of the movie,Frances McDormand and George Clooney's characters were two that really stood out in my mind,they started off seeming very normal,and the more you get to know them the more you find out strange things about.I also really enjoyed Brad Pitt in this,his character was the comic relief of the movie,he was very funny and a different character for him.Fans of the Coen brothers films should definitely check out Burn After Reading.

Two gym workers discover the classified memoirs of a CIA agent and decide to exploit them for their own ends

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Plan Goes Awry Strikes Again

Author: welsh11 from United States
15 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


This film follows the typical pattern of a Coen brothers movie. The "plan goes awry" theme is the central premise, though the Coens have claimed idiocy is the main theme. Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) is after four different cosmetic surgeries, and after being denied by her HMO, she is desperate to come up with the money. This is the main plot, and all other characters are weaved into this storyline. Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) works with Linda at the Hardbodies gym, and works as her accomplice to get a reward from Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) after they find what they believe to be his disc containing sensitive CIA intelligence at Hardbodies. Unbeknownst to them, however, Osborne had recently been fired from the CIA, and the disc was simply his memoirs. Osborne's wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton), has been having an extramarital affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), a man also employed by the CIA in the treasury department. The disc found by Chad and Linda was created by Katie. She saved Osborne's memoirs and personal financial information on the disc in an effort to stake her claim in his funds before filing for divorce, as advised by her attorney. Believing the disc to be valuable, Linda and Chad locate Osborne and inform him they are in possession of his sensitive information, and they will return it to him for a fee. Osborne is not amused, nor is he cooperative. When they realize they will not get a "Good Samaritan Tax" from Osborne, Linda and Chad decide to take the information to the Russian embassy.

The characters in this film are exaggerated and completely absurd, Chad in particular. It was clear Brad Pitt had fun with this character, and he was the highlight of the film. It was a loss to the movie when he was killed off at about the halfway mark, but the Coens knew what they were doing. Chad was such a lovable character that the audience could really appreciate him when he was on screen, but he did not have too much screen time. Viewers did not have the opportunity to become bored by him. He was humorous in his absurdity, and the film would not have worked without him. His death supports the theme in that it was one of the unintended outcomes of Linda's plan.

Linda's plan was to take the disc and sell the "sensitive information" to the Russians. When the Russians demand more information, Linda makes Chad break into Osborne's home to steal more. Unfortunately, this does not work out as planned, much like the plan in Fargo, another of the Coens' films. Chad is ultimately shot dead by Harry while in Osborne's home. This scene most compliments the plan gone awry theme. Linda was not out to hurt anyone, she only wanted to look better. Money was her motivation, and unfortunately, her selfish plan left several casualties in its wake.

The Coens commented on social problems throughout the film. Linda's incessant search for the perfect body with money as a motivator for her actions shows that vanity has become an unfortunate social tradition. Further, when the CIA officers are on screen, they take a nonchalant position. They attempt to make sense of it all, but, in the end, decide they have learned nothing. They basically sweep all the problems under the rug – a comment on the current state of those in power.

The Coens employed the use of the musical score as a means to communicate emotion. The deep drumming instills in viewers the intensity of scenes. The suspenseful music functions to create structural rhythms and stimulate emotional responses (Boggs & Petrie, 2008, 292). The score prepares us for action by building dramatic tension, and when it is played, we become subconsciously aware that exciting action is about to take place. The music compliments the theme by being played when plans are about to fall through.

Burn After Reading was edited in such a way that quick cutting between scenes fosters excitement in the viewer. The editing is smooth and unobtrusive, successfully communicating the fast pace of the story. This supports the theme in that is it fast and chaotic, much like when the result of a plan is unintended and continues to snowball into worse outcomes.

References Boggs, J. & Petrie, J. (2008). The art of watching films. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies. Coen, E. & Coen, J. (Directors & Producers). (2008). Burn after reading. Motion Picture. United States: Focus Features.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A satire not a comedy(laugh riot).now a fan of the coen bros.

Author: manuvanamali1995 from thrissur
6 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I read the reviews after watching the movie.I could find that many people gave it an average rating bcoz they don't think it is good comedy movie. Yes it is not a comedy movie like Jim carrey movies,hangover,or steve martin movies.Moreover it can be viewed as a satire on present American society.Everyone is wearing a mask and the husbands and wives cheat each other,uncontrolled use of personal guns(clooney kills brad pitt on a moment of anxiety),feeling insecurity regarding personal privacy(clooney asks the question"who are you?where are you from CIA,NSA?") I REALLY LOVED THE MOVIE.GOT MORE THAN I EXPECTED.NOW I AM A FAN OF THE COEN BROTHERS BY JUST WATCHING THEIR SINGLE WORK. Realized that Brad pitt has potential to do characters like this.i expected only serious roles from him. Recommended movie if you want thought provoking laughs.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Burn After Reading — What if you believed you were in a spy movie?

Author: Avid Climber from Montreal, Canada
2 June 2013

Burn After Reading is a weird movie. It takes everything that makes a good spy flick and turn it on its head. You can't help but incredulously laugh at what happens. This is all about oddballs.

The good. Excellent acting. Totally off the wall characters, actions and situations, yet completely logical. Story with twists within twists. Well paced scenario. Solid dialogs. Nice action.

The actors. George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, and John Malkovich play disturbingly crazy roles stuffed with delusion and heavily dosed with stupidity. While Richard Jenkins, David Rasche, and J.K. Simmons seem almost out of place as the standard bearers of reason.

The bad. Since it's so bizarre, it won't please everyone.

The ugly. Nothing.

The result. Offbeat and cooky comedy. Don't think you'll see your run of the mill kind of film and you'll have fun.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

If you like the Big Lebowski from the Coens or Clooney, Pitt or Mcdormand

Author: m1xer from Canada
10 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You will like this.

Also did I mention John Malkovich who is absolutey hysterical as the fired guy with a drinking problem who freaks out on everyone.

What makes the Coens brothers films so successful in comedies is how irrelevant everything is.

In the Big Lebowski it was the Dude (Jeff Bridges) having his carpet soiled, and a kidnapping plot with a lot of ins and a lot of outs, while his bowling buddies Buscemi and Goodman help him out.

In this movie it is about Malkovich losing his job and then writing a book or a memoir about his life which Brad Pitt and Francis McDormand (both hysterical in their respective roles) steal and believe it is high, top notch CIA material they call Sh**. Malkovich informs them both their in over their heads but the stuff that takes place is just all too hysterical.

The Coens have hit comedy gold again, them and Scorcese have to be my favourite directos out there. Nolan and Fincher I enjoy as well.

Awesome Comedy here. Not for everybody but that is just how the Coens are. You appreciate it more when you realize the script is supposed to be irrelevant, there-in lies the comedy gold!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Weird But Watchable

Author: Javier Reyes from United States
20 February 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I wouldn't mind watching this movie again, in fact I want to watch the movie again. There's just one problem with the movie that really made me throw the controller at my TV, and that's when brad pitt got shot, it was so unexpected and random, he didn't have dignity when he died. He was the nice guy and goofy, funny, gave the movie that laugh it needed to restore it from the boring scenes. The only funny part of the movie, the only reason for the movie having the smallest amount of humor ended in a flash before you could even say, WTF. The movie was still good, I just believe it would've been better without brad pitt dying.

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