Burn After Reading


Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 37
  2. Negative: 1 out of 37

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Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    After the portentous "No Country for Old Men," Joel and Ethan Coen return to their trademark brand of cruel, misanthropic farce, and for dark laughs and hurtling narrative momentum this spy caper is their best work since "Fargo."
  2. This is the loopiest star vehicle in ages.
  3. 90
    A roller coaster of emotions that will have you laughing one moment and gasping in shock the next.
  4. 83
    Nothing more and nothing less than a savvy and talented cast having its way with a clever, hilarious script, with absolutely no weighty issues at stake.
  5. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    That's the paradox that makes this parade of folly so much fun: it feels as if everyone involved is having a high old time, and their enthusiasm is contagious.
  6. Because it's a Coen brothers film before it's anything else, this is about as dark and nihilistic as comedies are allowed to get before the laughter dies bitterly on your lips.
  7. Reviewed by: Ian Nathan
    If "No Country For Old Men" was vintage port, Burn After Reading is a shot of tequila: eye watering and hard to swallow, but the after-effect is terrific.
  8. 75
    This is a thriller with a high quotient of comedic elements or, if you prefer, a comedy with a high quotient of thriller elements. As is always the case with a production of Joel & Ethan, it's difficult to classify, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.
  9. 75
    It would be no country for movie lovers without the Coens. They still manage to run unmuzzled while the rest of Hollywood runs scared.
  10. 75
    This feels like a second-shelf Coen comedy, particularly when compared to their no-less-shaggy "The Big Lebowski."
  11. A goofy screwball romp that affords a gaggle of A-listers the chance to hambone around in antic style.
  12. 75
    The characters are zany, the plot coils upon itself with dizzy zeal, and the roles seem like a perfect fit for the actors -- yes, even Brad Pitt, as Chad, a gum-chewing, fuzzy-headed physical fitness instructor. I've always thought of him as a fine actor, but here he reveals a dimension that, shall I say, we haven't seen before.
  13. One of the Coens' more playful projects, much lighter and significantly slighter than "No Country for Old Men" or "Fargo," but it's put together with such perfection that you can't help but be won over.
  14. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    It's consistently funny -- with witty dialogue and offbeat banter that stays in your head for days.
  15. Doesn't add up to much, but it's fast and funny and lets a bunch of top-drawer actors exercise their comic muscles.
  16. It's as pitiless and brutal as any of their pictures and funnier than any except "Raising Arizona."
  17. 75
    Everyone in the movie is a buffoon or a dolt. No one is redeemable. The humor comes at the expense of the characters: You're always laughing at them, never with them. The Coens have never seemed this disdainful, this mocking, of their fellow man.
  18. The brothers' dark, all-star farce about sex, lies and surveillance is pretty damned funny.
  19. Joel and Ethan Coen clearly are in a prankish mood, knocking out a minor piece of silliness with all the trappings of an A-list studio movie.
  20. 70
    The Coens return to familiar territory with the parody thriller Burn After Reading, a characteristically supercilious and crisply shot clown show filled with cartoon perfs and predicated on extravagant stupidity.
  21. 70
    Beneath its movie star clowning, its awful-but-relatable heroine and its lightweight gags, Burn After Reading poses an implicit challenge to its viewers: Can you figure out why this comedy isn't very funny? Could that be because its central proposition is that the people in the theater are just as stupid, just as gullible, just as eager to be deceived as the people on the screen?
  22. Burn After Reading, the new film from the Coen Brothers, won't be mistaken for "Fargo" anytime soon. Or "Barton Fink," or "The Man Who Wasn' There." Those films were black comedy done to perfection.
  23. 63
    The film has enough funny lines and weird situations - some comedy business with a sex chair lovingly constructed by the Clooney character is the highlight - that it could age into a cult film like "The Big Lebowski."
  24. It's clear that Burn After Reading is a wannabe cult favourite -- some viewers may embrace it; many more will just want to burn after watching.
  25. 63
    The script is clever and would be brilliant if it worked.
  26. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Nothing about the project's execution inspires the feeling that this was ever intended as anything more than a lark, which would be fine if it were a good one. As it is, audience teeth-grinding sets in early and never lets up.
  27. Burn After Reading is untranscendent, a little tired, the first Coen brothers picture on autopilot. In the words of the CIA superior, it’s "no biggie."
  28. The movie is overplowed, even if Brad Pitt's debut as a Coen comedy player is eye-catching.
  29. Clooney remains as game as ever, but the way he and McDormand push the energy here, you feel the strain. Pitt, just floating through, comes off best. He doesn't judge the moron he's playing; he just is.
  30. It's a cheerful trifle tossed off by the Coen brothers in their self-enchanted mode, an approach to comedy that shrugs off comedy's cardinal rule -- Don't Act Funny.
  31. 50
    Oh, the high-octane cast works hard. But there's nothing to suggest anybody off camera tried that hard, which is fatal to a Coen outing.
  32. The clubby, predictably self-amused comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen, has a tricky plot, visual style, er, to burn, but so little heart as to warrant a Jarvik 8.
  33. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    It's a clever setup for a spoof of the espionage thriller, but despite the film's intermittent pleasures (Pitt's gum-snapping dolt chief among them), the result is oddly airless.
  34. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Shallow and proud of it, an antic cartoon that lacks the comic inspiration to go the distance.
  35. 40
    Even Frances McDormand, the salt-of-the-earth actress who has warmed so many of the Coen brothers movies, falls into a queasy dead zone.
  36. Hopped up like a Bugs Bunny cartoon on mescaline and as chatty and uppity as a 5-year-old, Burn After Reading could be seen as the Coen brothers' need to let loose after the tightly wound "No Country for Old Men."
  37. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Either the Coens failed, or I didn't figure out what they're attempting. I must be like Harry or Osborne, pretending to a sophistication I lack. Burn After Reading is a movie about stupidity that left me feeling stupid.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 354 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 92 out of 164
  2. Negative: 42 out of 164
  1. Feb 4, 2013
    It's deadpan comedy at its best, and who better to deliver it than Joel and Ethan Cohen, along with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, FrancesIt's deadpan comedy at its best, and who better to deliver it than Joel and Ethan Cohen, along with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand and the fantastic John Malkovich.
    When a disc containing some of the CIAs most revealing secrets goes missing, it ends up in the gym of the most bumbling, simple minded individuals, who attempt blackmail but get in too far over their heads.
    Its an approach at showing just how overreacting individuals can be, but also just how bland or too seriously many Hollywood movies take themselves surrounding this incident, basically a parody.
    Its a very well written dark comedy with brilliant performances, particularly Brad Pitt as an extremely camp gym worker, and retied CIA analyst John Malkovich.
    It has this large ensemble cast that go to extreme length to mock and amaze through sheer stupidity, all for our amusement, and they certainly do not fail.
    Full Review »
  2. Dec 31, 2013
    Burn after reading blazes....
    The plot is crafted with immense precision surrounded by amusing characters and incredible acting performances,
    Burn after reading blazes....
    The plot is crafted with immense precision surrounded by amusing characters and incredible acting performances, a great film from the Cohen brothers.
    Full Review »
  3. Jul 28, 2013
    you know how when a normal movie ends and you're like "ok, that was ok" while nodding your head.
    and when a great movie ends you're like HOLY
    you know how when a normal movie ends and you're like "ok, that was ok" while nodding your head.
    and when a great movie ends you're like HOLY waw, that was fantastic
    but when burn after reading ends, i'm like "WHAT, THAT'S IT 1:35 MINUTES, did i download the full movie or something went wrong?"
    so yeah 1 hour 35 minutes are too short to figure out these 5 characters, and yeah the performances were great,
    but one does not simply enjoy an unfinished movie with terrible ending.
    Full Review »