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Burn After Reading

589 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An all-star cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and John Malkovich, come together in this outrageous spy comedy about murder, blackmail, sex addiction and physical fitness! When a disc filled with some of the CIA's most irrelevant secrets gets in the hands of two determined, but dim-witted, gym employees, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. But since blackmail is a trade better left for the experts, events soon spiral out of everyone's and anyone's control, resulting in a non-stop series of hilarious encounters! From Joel and Ethan Coen, the Academy Award-winning directors of No Country For Old Men and The Big Lebowski, comes this brilliantly clever and endlessly entertaining movie that critics are calling, "smart, funny, and original" (Ben Lyons, E!).

After the dark brilliance of No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading may seem like a trifle, but few filmmakers elevate the trivial to art quite like Joel and Ethan Coen. Inspired by Stansfield Turner's Burn Before Reading, the comically convoluted plot clicks into gear when the CIA gives analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) the boot. Little does Cox know his wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton, riffing on her Michael Clayton character), is seeing married federal marshal Harry (George Clooney, Swinton's Clayton co-star, playing off his Syriana role). To get back at the Agency, Cox works on his memoirs. Through a twist of fate, fitness club workers Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt in a pompadour that recalls Johnny Suede) find the disc and try to wrangle a "Samaratin tax" out of the surly alcoholic. An avid Internet dater, Linda plans to use the money for plastic surgery, oblivious that her manager, Ted (The Visitor's Richard Jenkins), likes her just the way she is. Though it sounds like a Beltway remake of The Big Lebowski, the Coen entry it most closely resembles, this time the brothers concentrate their energies on the myriad insecurities endemic to the mid-life crisis--with the exception of Chad, who's too dense to share such concerns, leading to the funniest performance of Pitt's career. If Lebowski represented the Coen's unique approach to film noir, Burn sees them putting their irresistibly absurdist stamp on paranoid thrillers from Enemy of the State to The Bourne Identity. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Stills from Burn After Reading (Click for larger image)

Special Features

  • Finding the Burn
  • DC Insiders Run Amuck
  • Welcome Back, George

  • Product Details

    • Actors: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton
    • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
    • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
    • Producers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
    • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
    • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
    • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
    • Dubbed: French
    • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
    • Number of discs: 1
    • Rated: R (Restricted)
    • Studio: Focus Features
    • DVD Release Date: December 21, 2008
    • Run Time: 96 minutes
    • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (589 customer reviews)
    • ASIN: B001JIE7JC
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,458 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
    • Learn more about "Burn After Reading" on IMDb

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    175 of 188 people found the following review helpful By Justin A. Atkinson on November 24, 2009
    Format: Blu-ray
    I just wanted to point out that every single complaint that the one-star reviews dole out are just icing on the cake as far as me totally loving this movie. The characters had no depth? The plot was too amorphous? THAT WAS THE POINT FOLKS. The characters are examples of typical character flaws that are variations on stupidity. You're supposed to enjoy their lives falling apart. I sure as hell did.
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    131 of 145 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Daley on January 23, 2009
    Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
    I am shocked at the amount of negative reviews here. This is a comedic masterpiece. I think the one star ratings are coming from simpletons that have no clue about truly subtle and intelligent humor. THE ABRUPT ENDING WAS PART OF THE POINT!



    In their brilliance, the coens were MAKING A POINT BY MAKING A MOVIE WITH NO POINT!

    This film is true genius and one of the funniest films I have ever seen. Clooney was a perverted mess and Pitt was genius as a mindless but fun good samaritan. If you know anything about comedy, you will love this film.
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    137 of 165 people found the following review helpful By Caleb Williams on November 1, 2008
    Format: DVD
    After the true genius of No Country For Old Men, the Coen Brothers come back with a whole new dimension. Burn After Reading is a dark comedy about idiots faced with an intelligent and complex situation. Two Gym instructors Linda Litsky (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) find a disc containing the memoirs of ex CIA agent Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich). They, being idiots think it's a disc containing top secret information and try to bribe Osbourne for money which would help pay for Linda's cosmetic surgery. Things don't go to plan as Osbourne has bigger things on his mind, his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with the paranoid Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney).

    This film is actually quite intelligent in its own right, the characters seem well defined and are played superbly. The characters were specifically written for the actor playing them and it really shows.

    John Malkovich portrays the agent lost of all hope well, you become quite intimidated by both his intelligence and temper.

    George Clooney as the paranoid individual who's having more affairs than you can wave a stick at doesn't falter. He's jumpy, but hey who wouldn't be if you were sleeping with three different women. This eratic behaviour becomes a bit tragic and leads to the death of one of the characters in the film.

    Brad Pitt as the loveable and wannabe cunning idiot is fantastic, the facial expressions and general stereotypical dexterity of what we would expect a personal trainer to be really works. This becomes especially amusing when he enters into the bribing game with Malkovich and starts to enter into the character of cunning spy. It has to be seen to be believed.
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    14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steven Aldersley on April 13, 2012
    Format: Blu-ray
    Do you remember the first Blu-ray you ever bought? Mine was Burn After Reading on the same day that I purchased my first Blu-ray player. It's a title that receives very little recognition and it regularly features in sales. Why is that the case?

    The movie is directed by the Coen brothers and stars Clooney, Pitt, McDormand, Malkovich and Swinton. What's not to like?

    I'm hard to please when it comes to humor, but several Coen brothers films hit the spot. It's clever dialogue rather than slapstick physical humor, and some of it is unpredictable. I can't laugh when I see a joke coming from a mile away wearing a T-shirt with "This is funny, laugh now" written on it. I like to be surprised.

    So what is surprising about Burn After Reading?

    Harry Pfarrer (Clooney) has no redeeming features. He's married, but sees other women at every opportunity. He's having an affair with Katie Cox (Swinton). Harry is shallow, paranoid and somewhat stupid and Clooney plays the character with his usual charm and good humor.

    If there is anyone dumber than Harry, it has to be Chad Feldheimer (Pitt), who works in a gym. Chad is a complete idiot in every way. His friend at the gym is Linda Litzke (McDormand), who is obsessed with undergoing cosmetic surgery to improve her appearance.

    Osborne Cox (Malkovich) is married to Katie and works as an analyst for the CIA. Most of his sentences include at least one profanity and he's borderline alcoholic. The story begins with a meeting in which Osborne is told that he will be demoted, but instead of accepting the situation, he quits. Katie is not pleased, even though she's on the verge of leaving him for Harry.

    There's not much of a plot.
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    12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mark J. Fowler VINE VOICE on November 5, 2010
    Format: DVD
    Joel and Ethan Coen make movies that are at right angles to most of the rest of Hollywood. Their dramas, going back to "Blood Simple", have a refreshing splash of humor, and their comedies, going back to "Raising Arizona", have dark elements. The Coen's are so adept at crossing stylishly from one genre to another it is no surprise that their grim Oscar-winning "No Country For Old Men" is followed by this delightfully twisted comedy.

    I repeatedly find in Coen comedies characters who are not only entertainly dumb, but (as happens so often in real life, doesn't it?) unaware of their stupidity. (Think back to "The Big Lebowski" and "O, Brother, Where Art Thou?") In "Burn After Reading" the Coens have assembled both performers and characters who are able to rip through a script that would be part hilarious and part ridiculous - ridiculous, that is, if it were not a Coen Brothers movie.

    Brad Pitt appears prominently in the film's ad campaign (and he is sublime as an airheaded fitness trainer), but it would be difficult to say he is the "star", as a half dozen characters share as much screen time. John Malkovich brings an edgy profanity to his not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is CIA analyst, who quits rather than take a demotion when his bosses confront him about his drinking problem. Tilda Swinton is superbly cast as his icy wife, not only reprising her White Witch character from "Narnia", but also her cold-blooded lawyer from "Michael Clayton". Swinton plays a pediatrician - the kind that makes children cry and doesn't care.
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    Topic From this Discussion
    Closing titles song: CIA Man
    "It Crawled into My Hand, Honest".

    Don't recall knowing they recorded such a song. I do slightly recall "Kaka Rock".
    May 29, 2012 by JNagarya |  See all 2 posts
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