Burn After Reading


Burn After Reading

Critics Consensus

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



Total Count: 239
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Movie Info

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.

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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
Dermot Mulroney
as Star of 'Coming Up Daisy'
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Critic Reviews for Burn After Reading

All Critics (239) | Top Critics (54)

  • 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.

    Nov 7, 2008
  • , Frances McDormand might get nominated for an Academy Award in a supporting role. She was great.

    Nov 7, 2008 | Full Review…
  • 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.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 2.5/4
  • Halfway between a good Coen brothers movie and a terrible Coen brothers movie.

    Oct 17, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Indeed, the spies and thrills don't add up at all. The plot is a total mistake. The characters are madly absurd. The film shouldn't work, but it does.

    Oct 17, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Burn After Reading is the Coens' most mediocre film in a long time: a desperately strained black comic farce.

    Oct 17, 2008 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

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