Burn After Reading (2008)



Critic Consensus: With Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers have crafted another clever comedy/thriller with an outlandish plot and memorable characters.

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At the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency in Arlington, Va., analyst Osborne Cox arrives for a top-secret meeting. Unfortunately for Cox, the secret is soon out: he is being ousted. Cox does not take the news particularly well and returns to his Georgetown home to work on his memoirs and his drinking, not necessarily in that order. His wife Katie is dismayed, though not particularly surprised; she is already well into an illicit affair with Harry Pfarrer, a married federal marshal, and sets about making plans to leave Cox for Harry. Elsewhere in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, and seemingly worlds apart, Hardbodies Fitness Centers employee Linda Litzke can barely concentrate on her work. She is consumed with her life plan for extensive cosmetic surgery, and confides her mission to can-do colleague Chad Feldheimer. Linda is all but oblivious to the fact that the gym's manager Ted Treffon pines for her even as she arranges dates via the Internet with other men. When a computer disc containing material for the CIA analyst's memoirs accidentally falls into the hands of Linda and Chad, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. As Ted frets, "No good can come of this," events spiral out of everyone's and anyone's control, in a cascading series of darkly hilarious encounters.
R (for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence)
Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
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George Clooney
as Harry Pfarrer
Frances McDormand
as Linda Litzke
John Malkovich
as Osbourne Cox
Brad Pitt
as Chad Feldheimer
Tilda Swinton
as Katie Cox
Richard Jenkins
as Ted Treffon
Elizabeth Marvel
as Sandy Pfarrer
David Rasche
as CIA Officer
J.K. Simmons
as CIA Superior
Jeffrey DeMunn
as Cosmetic Surgeon
Olek Krupa
as Krapotkin
Kevin Sussman
as Tuchman Marsh Man
J.R. Horne
as Divorce Lawyer
Pun Bandhu
as Party Guest
Karla Mosley
as Party Guest
Richard Poe
as Stretching Gym Patron
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Critic Reviews for Burn After Reading

All Critics (229) | Top Critics (49)

These are functioning morons, they walk and work among us. And they are brilliant and funny and in spite of the screwball-comedy nature of the story, they are completely believable.

November 7, 2008
At the Movies
Top Critic

, Frances McDormand might get nominated for an Academy Award in a supporting role. She was great.

Full Review… | November 7, 2008
At the Movies
Top Critic

The Coens are loopy stylists, and it's often amusing to watch this comedy of errors unfold. But after a masterpiece like No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading is classified as disposable.

October 18, 2008
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

For fans of the Coens... it suggests, especially on the heels of No Country for Old Men, that they have rediscovered their cinematic vision after several lean years.

Full Review… | September 16, 2008
The New Republic
Top Critic

On screen, delusional schmoes are more fun than smart people, and in the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, the imperious former spook played by John Malkovich accuses his blackmailers...of heading a league of morons.

September 12, 2008
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Burn After Reading is a piffle, but it's a savagely amusing one.

Full Review… | September 12, 2008
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Burn After Reading

This film is just fun and funny. A Coen Bros classic that can't be missed. The characters are expertly drawn and the alluring, winding plot is enjoyable. Great performances from the entire cast. Possibly the least dark Coens' movie.

_kelly .King
_kelly .King

Super Reviewer

Another fantastic outing for the Coen Brothers whose quirks and kookiness add charm and additional laughs with repeat viewings. Featuring outstanding work from an all-star cast, the Coen Brothers craft memorable characters and situations that will stick with me forever. I haven't laughed as hard as I do at any other movie in recent memory. The plot is ludicrous and hysterical in equal measure and has the right amount of stupid and smart to work. It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I consider Burn After Reading a dark comedy masterpiece.

Josh Lewis
Josh Lewis

Super Reviewer

An insanely hilarious melange of comedy and thriller as one would imagine from the Coen Brothers, with a bizarre story full of characters who are stupid beyond comprehension and great performances by its whole cast, especially Brad Pitt stealing the scene.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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