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Burn After Reading (2008)

A movie directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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Pretty Great

  • Nov 1, 2008
  • by
Rating:
+5
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.

Frances McDormands character is the real shining light of the whole film as she's the catalyst leading up to the films biggest events. She's a middle aged gym instructor paranoid over the look of her body. While trying to get plastic surgery, she's turned down by her insurance company and is the one that convinces Pitts character to bribe Cox. She's a woman on the edge of giving up on life and wants to take one last leap into the chance of a relationship, but is made even more nervous by her own body insecurities.

The Coens once again create a film that is both surreal and believable, the characters are shockingly brilliant. The scenario is a bit over the top but comes together perfectly. There is something that bothered me, however, and that's the fact that every character in the film seemed to be having an affair with someone else. I don't know, maybe that was the whole point that made the film work. For fans of the Coens this is definitely one that sits proudly in their film catalogue next to such greats as No Country For Old Men and The Big Lebowski. I would strongly recommend it to any film fan overall, it's definitely worth it just for the Brad Pitt & Clooney facial expressions. Be warned though as if you're easily offended by swearing, then you might as well take your pad and pen with you to start writing your complaints letter.

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More Burn After Reading (2008 movie... reviews
review by . April 15, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
After a mid-career dip, the CB are back! Burn represents the second consecutive strong showing, coming on the heals of their best ever No Country for Old Men. Burn isn't their best ever, but it is a return to their roots, and to what made them good.    The BL (Before Lebowski) movies were a tour of the classic genres of the Great Age of cinema, centered around the theme of identity:    Blood Simple was a great noir debut about misunderstanding identity.  Raising …
review by . June 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
They say good things come in twos, and I can’t think of a more fitting justification for this platitude than the varied body of work that is the Coen brothers’ film repertoire. Time and time again, the duo has tickled our funny bones while offering that something extra for the finicky tastes of moviegoers whose palates desire a little “oomph”.      That being said,      I hated Burn After Reading.      I mean, I …
review by . July 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A throw-away effort by the Coen Brothers, but Tilda Swinton takes the prize for unlikable funniness
If you enjoy sour shaggy dog stories told for the enjoyment of clever, sour people, you might like Burn After Reading...a shaggy dog story if there ever was one. It takes the easy target of Washington's shallow denizens and mixes them into the equally easy targets of CIA paranoia and serial infidelities. And all these denizens, with one possible exception, are either numbskull boobs or nasty boobs.       The Coens have given us not only a sour shaggy dog story, designed …
review by . August 16, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I would call myself a fan of the Coen Brothers. A pretty big fan actually. Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou? are among my favourite films of all time, and I'm a huge admirer of their darker offerings like Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, No Country For Old Men and Blood Simple. Therefore, I sat down to watch Burn After Reading with great expectations. Those expectations even seemed justified by the clips I'd seen and the things I'd read about …
review by . July 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
BAR is directed by the talented Cohen brothers and offers up a cast with some quality talent like Richard Jenkins and Frances McDormand. It also starred Pitt and Clooney but I'm afraid I have been soured on that Big Screen partnership by the deteriorating Oceans franchise, I mean come on, each progressive sequel sunk deeper and deeper down.     The plot is amusingly nuts and convoluted:   Osbourne Cox, a Balkan expert, is fired at the CIA, so he starts a memoir. His wife …
Quick Tip by . July 04, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Coen Brother's zany comic follow up to No Country For Old Men has wacky goins on in DC with an alcohalic and his frosty wife, a philanthripist and his ornery wife and two dim gym employees getting mixed up over a lame MacGuffin. Maybe not a classic, but worth watching once.
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Coen Bros lately give us characters to care about briefly. Then they die. This is wearing thin. Their satirical schtick feels increasingly bitter rather than entertaining, and this film shows their smug insularity. A few moments such as the deadpan CIA suits as they converse hit their mark, but the actors seem as worn out as their convoluted storylines now.
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Intriguing and amusing at times, but overall, I could barely keep myself focused on the screen.
Quick Tip by . August 03, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
A little disappointed with this one, great cast but expected a little more.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Very Underrated. One of the funniest movies I have seen lately
About the reviewer
Steven Stewart ()
Ranked #94
Currently studying Law at University, my main interests revolve around Politics. I read quite a lot and love learning about History. Not just the history of a specific time, place and person, but I'm … more
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Wiki

With their overtly comedic follow-up BURN AFTER READING, the Coen Brothers return--about a third of the way--from the dark, dank recesses of the human psyche they traversed in their Oscar-winning NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. For those unfamiliar with the landscape of modern movie psychoanalysis, this puts the fraternal filmmakers square in the cruel, misanthropic, and farcical realm of their 1990s-era body of work, somewhere between the tragicomic crime thriller of FARGO and the disconnected noir-homage anti-storytelling of THE BIG LEBOWSKI, with 2007's NO COUNTRY retroactively adding new nihilism-tinged dimensions of smart skepticism to the proceedings. In a more linear trajectory, BURN AFTER READING also stands as the third entry, after BLOOD SIMPLE and FARGO, in what could be an unofficial Tragedy of Human Idiocy trilogy, wherein characters make the most outlandishly moronic moves to devastating consequences simply by adhering to true human behavior. Indeed, Carter Burwell's emotionally weighty score, whic...

After the dark brilliance ofNo Country for Old Men,Burn After Readingmay seem like a trifle, but few filmmakers elevate the trivial to art quite like Joel and Ethan Coen. Inspired by Stansfield Turner'sBurn 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 herMichael Claytoncharacter), is seeing married federal marshal ...
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Details

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: September 12, 2008
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
DVD Release Date: December 21, 2008
Runtime: 96 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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