Burn After Reading

User Score
6.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 354 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 59 out of 354

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User Reviews

  1. Sep 7, 2011
    5
    This is the epitome of mediocre movies. After watching it I seriously could not decide if I liked it or not. The acting is great. It has some funny moments. There are some small twists that I seriously did not see coming. But the story is lackluster, as are most of the characters. While the plot is resolved at the end, you're kind of left feeling like the entire movie was a waste of time.
  2. Mar 18, 2012
    4
    Frances McDormand and George Clooney lead this somewhat confusing and at times startlingly violent film about what happens when two people that put money (or possible larger breasts) over their safety. When two gym workers find a CD containing sensitive CIA information, they embark on a dangerous quest to receive their reward for being 'good samaritans'. Despite the label comedy, it is notFrances McDormand and George Clooney lead this somewhat confusing and at times startlingly violent film about what happens when two people that put money (or possible larger breasts) over their safety. When two gym workers find a CD containing sensitive CIA information, they embark on a dangerous quest to receive their reward for being 'good samaritans'. Despite the label comedy, it is not a terribly funny movie, as the jokes are few and far between. It isn't worth the hype, however, if you like crime drama kinda stuff, you should at least try it. Expand
  3. Jul 28, 2013
    4
    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
    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.
    Expand
  4. MichaelS.
    Sep 15, 2008
    4
    This was a horrible mess of a movie that strained too hard to pull out any sort of comedy. Extremely dry and simplistic humor dots the film as if the actors were forced to try and make it funny. The only moments that even cracked a laugh in the whole movie theater were perhaps the least clever, calling a man a, "Jew", a Hispanic worker repeating what he's saying, and two government This was a horrible mess of a movie that strained too hard to pull out any sort of comedy. Extremely dry and simplistic humor dots the film as if the actors were forced to try and make it funny. The only moments that even cracked a laugh in the whole movie theater were perhaps the least clever, calling a man a, "Jew", a Hispanic worker repeating what he's saying, and two government officials trying to figure out whats going on, mark all three funny moments in the film. As well, the first quarter of the movie before the, "Burn After Reading" file is discovered is absolutely unneeded, it slowly, almost to the point of nauseatingly fleshes out the main characters, so much that I think I've seen soap operas wrap up character history faster. The entire movie was a failure at an attempt to entertain, but spot on when it comes to portraying how stupid the characters were, the last three minutes of the show are all you truly need to watch, as this movie is quite the head-snapper, as in I'm trying not to pass out from the sheer stupidity this film made me endure. Collapse
  5. MarkB.
    Oct 16, 2008
    4
    Comparing and contrasting the careers of the last two Lifetime Achievement--er, Best Director Oscar winners: Martin Scorsese's lifetime output represents the work of someone who has seen a lot of movies and lived a lot of life. The Coen Brothers' lifetime output represents that of someone who has seen a lot of movies. Oh, don't get me wrong--their studiously composed Comparing and contrasting the careers of the last two Lifetime Achievement--er, Best Director Oscar winners: Martin Scorsese's lifetime output represents the work of someone who has seen a lot of movies and lived a lot of life. The Coen Brothers' lifetime output represents that of someone who has seen a lot of movies. Oh, don't get me wrong--their studiously composed clones-with-attitude of yesteryear's finest ,such as the unjustly underrated retro-noir The Man Who Wasn't There, can certainly yield many of their own rewards (and it should be no surprise whatsoever that the biggest laughs in their remake of The Ladykillers were lifted directly from the 1955 Alec Guinness original), but too much of their recent work--No Country For Old Men being an atypical blip on the radar, and therefore predictably the big winner of the Academy Award jackpot--emerges as heartless, soulless, and, especially given how often the word "quirky" is applied to these guys, oddly mechanical. Earlier comedies such as Raising Arizona and Fargo partially countermanded this with such a palpable underlying core of sweetness, especially in thdeir depictions of the central characters' marriages, that any fleeting suspicion that Joel and Ethan were treating their principals with the slightest whiff of condescension could be easily and happily dismissed. Not so with their espionage farce Burn After Reading, a farce as irriatingly tangled as a store selling Christmas tree lights in the aftermath of a firebombing and as distastefully acrid as a carton of milk left sitting on the radiator since Saddam shuffled off this mortal coil. If I wanted to watch one-joke comedies about nothing more than how selfish and stupid people are (with no compensating or justifying point of view as can at least be found in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or Altman's The Player), I'd sit at home with reruns of Married...With Children and America's Funniest Home Videos; at least those offerings wouldn't profoundly depress me with all-dressed-up-and-nowhere-to-go comic turns by a very lively Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, J.K. Simmons and Mrs. Coen herself. The rubber-faced Frances McDormand, whose brilliant but compassionate cop Marge Gunderson from Fargo will live past all vocal comparisons to a certain notorious political figure to remain one of ther most endearing movie characters in history, is especially poorly used as a moronic and (deservedly) unlucky-in-love health club employee. Admittedly, the fact that the Coens assembled such an elaborate , seemingly unending (though it's only slightly over 90 minutes) paean to utter obtuseness (with the one somewhat likable and reasonably intelligent character meeting a gory, disgusting fate) IS superficially impressive in the way that someone constructing a model of the Sistine Chapel entirely out of cheese might be, but in both instances the novelty wears off VERY quickly and the results turn putrid even more rapidly. Or, as Juno's dad asks at picture's end, what have we learned? Not a damned thing. Oh, brother, you said it. Expand
  6. BobW
    Oct 9, 2008
    6
    Lots of F words and a couple of surprisingly jarring violent scenes seemed out of synch with the humor and caper qualities of the film. A creative plot but not a movie I would recommend.
  7. JamesB.
    Sep 19, 2008
    6
    Oh boy. Hmm,...let's see now, I didn't necessarily "dislike" this typically polarizing of a Coen Brothers film, but I hardly "loved" it as well. Like their far superior "No Country For Old Men", this new film is rife with pessimism, misanthropy and palpable mean-spiritedness (despite it being an alleged "comedy"), but unlike "NCFOM", it hasn't a really compelling story (or Oh boy. Hmm,...let's see now, I didn't necessarily "dislike" this typically polarizing of a Coen Brothers film, but I hardly "loved" it as well. Like their far superior "No Country For Old Men", this new film is rife with pessimism, misanthropy and palpable mean-spiritedness (despite it being an alleged "comedy"), but unlike "NCFOM", it hasn't a really compelling story (or rather a series of untypically cinematic "things" happening against formula) nor any interesting characters to "care about" (we're passively along for the "let's mock these morons" ride). It's chock full of unmitigated idiots and hapless dolts (Malkovich notwithstanding, despite his surface perceptions of idiocy all about him) running around oblivious of the likely consequences of their respective actions and the ramifications of other people's reactions. This movie and its mindbogglingly inept array of twits represent a contemporary microcosm of the idiocy that continues to stymie (for the most part) the actual (i.e., the "mental/psychological progress", and not the more popular and assumed "technological sense") progress of the human race. This is what the Coen Brothers are lamenting and responding to. To a certain extent, I definitely sympathise with them and their frustration with contemporary culture, but it's too bad they couldn't express it more entertainingly. J.K.Simmons' final lines of dialogue perfectly sum up the sad situation afflicting early 21st century humanity and the laisse faire attitude of "doing our own thing" unbeknownst to everyone else and the potential adverse consequences therein. How can anyone learn anything from populated events affecting you indirectly and beyond your control, even if siad events are perpetrated by idiots? God, help us all!....oh yeah, that's right too. Expand
  8. JohnH
    Jan 1, 2009
    4
    Starts off ok but just gets stupid. I can't recommend this one.
  9. KathyS.
    Dec 30, 2008
    4
    Ho hum. The best part was seeing Brad Pitt smacked in the face.
  10. StewartQ.
    Sep 12, 2008
    5
    It's okay to admit that the Coen Brothers missed the mark on this one. Really, no need to pretend that the ending was not a baffling disappointment with more loose ends than a grass skirt. Sure, Brad Pitt was mildly funny but the film is full of gratuitous suspense and self absorbed intricacies that ultimately lead nowhere. Whether it is intended as a black comedy, a satirical farce It's okay to admit that the Coen Brothers missed the mark on this one. Really, no need to pretend that the ending was not a baffling disappointment with more loose ends than a grass skirt. Sure, Brad Pitt was mildly funny but the film is full of gratuitous suspense and self absorbed intricacies that ultimately lead nowhere. Whether it is intended as a black comedy, a satirical farce or an espionage goof, it is a hollow effort all around. ;-) Expand
  11. LarryK.
    Sep 13, 2008
    4
    Ah, yes. Yet again the trailers lure the flies to the spider's web. The stellar cast who nailed their roles could not make up for spotty entertaining dialogue and minimal laugh-out-loud scenes. It was boring and quite forgettable for the most part. Brad Pitt was the highlight of the film. His portrayal of a gym rat was hilariously entertaining. His exit came too soon in my opinion. Ah, yes. Yet again the trailers lure the flies to the spider's web. The stellar cast who nailed their roles could not make up for spotty entertaining dialogue and minimal laugh-out-loud scenes. It was boring and quite forgettable for the most part. Brad Pitt was the highlight of the film. His portrayal of a gym rat was hilariously entertaining. His exit came too soon in my opinion. I'll remember "Fargo" and "No Country for Old Men." This film I've already forgotten. Expand
  12. Johns
    Sep 15, 2008
    4
    Really average movie. Laughed once. The cast was just not funny. Gave NCFOM a 10, hope brothers do better next time.
  13. MariosK.
    Sep 16, 2008
    4
    This was a farce of everything which wasn't that interesting. the first part of the movie was bland and dry. the first bit of humor was when Brad pitt had his first lines (He was the only reason i gave this score a 4 instead of a 2). the story was very random. I expected more from a CLooney /Pitt movie.
  14. CD
    Sep 21, 2008
    4
    Not the best film of all time for sure...there was a lot of unnecessary drama crap and cold war puns that just flat out failed. Most of the film felt like boring office work, some of the film felt like those akward silences that you hate, and the small rest of it was funny. The only parts of this film that worked was Brad Pitt and Clooney. Everything else sucked.
  15. DQSlotkins
    Dec 25, 2008
    6
    I don't even know who these people calling themselves the "Coen Brothers" are. They have lost all ability to do dark comedy. This is no Fargo. This is a mess.
  16. Joshuablabbermouth
    Aug 27, 2008
    6
    I don't know? It just didn't feel right for me. It's a wild, fun, and entertaining movie. But it needs to find the proper tone because half of the time it was too loose and awkward. It's also very weird of a movie. It's very realistic, but it just didn't come to me. Sorry Coen brothers. But I denounce this movie to only be okay.
  17. WalterE.
    Sep 11, 2008
    4
    Burns After Peeing
  18. DougD.
    Sep 13, 2008
    4
    it did not live up to the ad. don't want to ruin anything but after someone dies it just gets sad. After the turning point in the movie it is not really comical anymore
  19. JenniferG.
    Sep 15, 2008
    5
    I'm not sure that I understand the raves about this movie...I do agree that it has you laughing one minute and gasping the next, but only in revulsion or confusion. There are certainly moments that are very funny and there is some great satire re: government "intelligence." However the overall experience is disjointed and too realistic to be a true farce, yet too unrealistic to be a I'm not sure that I understand the raves about this movie...I do agree that it has you laughing one minute and gasping the next, but only in revulsion or confusion. There are certainly moments that are very funny and there is some great satire re: government "intelligence." However the overall experience is disjointed and too realistic to be a true farce, yet too unrealistic to be a cutting satire. It seems that everyone making it had fun, but when we left the theater most of what I overheard was wondering why we hadn't had nearly as much fun watching it. Expand
  20. DaveJ.
    Sep 15, 2008
    5
    Entertaining, but definitely the weakest Coen brothers movie I've seen. Almost feels like a stop-gap production, or at least I hope it is.
  21. DaveW.
    Sep 18, 2008
    5
    It has some funny moments and some violent ones. I like both of the above but they didn't work well in this case. The characters were so stupid you just didn't care.
  22. ClaytonH.
    Sep 23, 2008
    4
    This was too long in setting the stage and ultimately not satisfying in the conclusion.
  23. TinaR
    Jan 12, 2009
    4
    With such a great cast, I thought this movie couldn't be bad, but BOY IT WAS BAD. I can only give it a 4 because Brad Pitt did a very good job and it was the only good thing about this movie. Despite that, It was very boring.
  24. AnnG.
    Mar 12, 2009
    4
    'Some great actors in a less than great movie. Brad Pitt was the most amusing and I am not a Pitt fan. I wish there were better scripts for such talented actors.
  25. EricC.
    Dec 28, 2008
    4
    Normally I'm a big defender of the Coen brother's black comedies, but this time... I don't know. Maybe the formula has grown old. How many times can you watch a bunch of wacky characters destroy each other through desperation and coincidence? They've made this movie before, and so have multiple others. The actors dedicate little to the movie. Only Brad Pitt seems to Normally I'm a big defender of the Coen brother's black comedies, but this time... I don't know. Maybe the formula has grown old. How many times can you watch a bunch of wacky characters destroy each other through desperation and coincidence? They've made this movie before, and so have multiple others. The actors dedicate little to the movie. Only Brad Pitt seems to put in effort, but he's only resurrecting previous characters. I wasn't bored while watching, but was disheartened by cheap jokes and cheap thrills. The Coen brothers reached greatness last year, now they sit lazily in meniocrity. It just isn't very good at all. Expand
  26. Aug 24, 2010
    6
    Man loses job at the CIA, writes memoirs, wife is having an affair then wants a divorce, couple of dimwits find the memoirs on a disc, try to sell it to the Russians as Top Secret intelligence.
    Coen brothers do farce. Cast are fine & there are some clever bits in it but took a while to get going.
    Ending does seem a bit rushed too.
  27. Dec 26, 2010
    6
    I enjoyed Burn After Reading for it's unconventional plot and hilarious performance from Brad Pitt. So many stupid people played by a cast of awesomeness. But this movie was missing quite a few things. It didn't really have a great impact and I think I know why. The Coens found great success with their Best Picture winner No Country For Old Men and tried to re-create that success, and whoI enjoyed Burn After Reading for it's unconventional plot and hilarious performance from Brad Pitt. So many stupid people played by a cast of awesomeness. But this movie was missing quite a few things. It didn't really have a great impact and I think I know why. The Coens found great success with their Best Picture winner No Country For Old Men and tried to re-create that success, and who wouldn't? They created some form of success, but this movie fell short of being memorable. The performances of the stupid people in Washington felt a bit overplayed at times and some of the jokes we admit are funny, but not very. Still, Pitt's acting shines in this one, so I'll say that this movie is okay in my book. Expand
  28. Feb 7, 2012
    5
    Il était presque difficile de croire que les frères Coen nous livre une comédie après le sublime No Country For Old Men. Encore plus étonnant, que ce nouveau film n'ait pas le caractère mordant propre aux réalisateurs. Enfin, si... si l'on décortique à fond cetteIl était presque difficile de croire que les frères Coen nous livre une comédie après le sublime No Country For Old Men. Encore plus étonnant, que ce nouveau film n'ait pas le caractère mordant propre aux réalisateurs. Enfin, si... si l'on décortique à fond cette comédie. Mais il faut bien l'avouer : ce qui ne sont pas habitués à ce genre d'univers ne peuvent pas entièrement accrocher à ce genre d'humour, prenant l'ensemble pour un simple film quelque peu monotone. Mais il faut bien reconnaître que la plupart des quiproquos se montrent jouissifs et que les comédiens se laissent aller (Brad Pitt, exceptionnel!). Bref, une sympathique farce noir qui manque tout de même de mordant. Expand
  29. Nov 28, 2015
    6
    I can't say this film is not funny, it has some quite entertaining parts. It's not a bad film at all, but it's kind of messy, the plot just jumps from one character to another and nothing gets resolved. Plus a lot of characters are extremely stupid, annoyingly so. The part that John Malkovich played is an exception, his character is kind of a jerk, but the only person with a brain. BradI can't say this film is not funny, it has some quite entertaining parts. It's not a bad film at all, but it's kind of messy, the plot just jumps from one character to another and nothing gets resolved. Plus a lot of characters are extremely stupid, annoyingly so. The part that John Malkovich played is an exception, his character is kind of a jerk, but the only person with a brain. Brad Pitt's character is extremely idiotic, but he is also an exception, because Pitt managed to make him hilarious. Expand
  30. Apr 3, 2016
    5
    Coens Ask the C.I.A. for a License to Laugh.

    Heart isn’t usually part of the discussion when we talk about movies, partly, I imagine, because it sounds too corny. And fuzzy. After all, what does it mean to say this or that director or film shows a lot of heart or too little? I ask only because “Burn After Reading,” the clubby, predictably self-amused comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen, has
    Coens Ask the C.I.A. for a License to Laugh.

    Heart isn’t usually part of the discussion when we talk about movies, partly, I imagine, because it sounds too corny. And fuzzy. After all, what does it mean to say this or that director or film shows a lot of heart or too little? I ask only because “Burn After Reading,” 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.

    Not that you probably won’t choke up a couple of ho-ho’s in between a few hee-hee’s whenever Big Daddy Brad Pitt, as a nitwit gym rat with a Pepe Le Pew two-tone hair-stack, twitches across the screen or the camera nuzzles one of the other goofy gargoyles so beloved by the Coens. Mr. Pitt’s Chad is the overripe second banana to Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand, Joel Coen’s wife), who has some vague job at the gym where the two sort of work. Chad’s a buffoon (the hard body as soft brain), and Mr. Pitt has been charged with delivering a caricature rather than a character, but because the actor loves playing sidemen and conveys such natural, irrepressible (irresistible) sweetness, he’s also one of the film’s saving graces.

    It could use a few more. Like most of the Coens’ comedies, “Burn After Reading” is something of a shaggy sendup of an established genre and conventions, in this case the espionage flick. The film opens and closes with a Google Maps view of the Earth that has already become a cinematic cliché, a godly perspective that rapidly narrows in on the headquarters for the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va. There, an analyst named Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) soon receives a demotion for boozing, the first knot in an increasingly and intentionally tangled thicket of contrivances and coincidences mostly involving three favorite American (and Hollywood) preoccupations: money, sex and self.

    With its complexly interwoven stories, political backdrop and the central presence of a bearded George Clooney, the film comes across a bit like “Syriana for Dummies,” though given the original this seems somewhat redundant. Here Mr. Clooney, recycling the tic-y head bobs and weaves from his “ER” days, plays Harry Pfarrer, a federal marshal who is two-timing his wife, Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel), with Osborne’s scarier better half, Katie (Tilda Swinton). A serial adulterer who totes his own wedge-shaped bolster to his assignations, Harry hooks up with Linda through the Internet, an improbability only slightly less preposterous than the computer disk of C.I.A. secrets that ends up floating around Linda and Chad’s gym and leading them in a world of trouble. As Donald H. Rumsfeld once said, “Stuff happens.”

    Professional wisenheimers, the Coens like squeezing laughs out of potentially hazardous material, whether they’re dumping a paraplegic out of a wheelchair for a chuckle, as they do in their finest film, “The Big Lebowski” (a comedy about the drama of friendship), or violently disposing of bit players, as they do in their most recent , “No Country for Old Men” (a drama about the comedy of death). They have a gift for the absurd and a penchant for cruelty, tendencies that, without the tempering quality of a recognizably human presence — Jeff Bridges’s glorious performance in “Lebowski,” Ms. McDormand’s emotionally nuanced one in “Fargo” — can make the Coens come across as insufferably superior and bullying. Comedy needs fools with funny faces, but comedy without gentleness is often just sadism.

    It isn’t that sadism can’t be a laugh riot; it’s just a question of modulation, of balancing the loud yuks and cruel jabs with some delicate feeling, mixing a real face in with the cartoons. Though “Burn After Reading” isn’t as uniformly flat as “The Hudsucker Proxy” (the Coens’ leaden bid for Preston Sturges’s dizziness), there’s a crushing sameness to the characters and their predicaments. With the exceptions of the hard-working supporting cast — notably J. K. Simmons as a C.I.A. bigwig and the equally reliable and welcome Richard Jenkins as a lovelorn gym manager — the characters have been conceived as variations on self-deluded boobishness. Some (like Katie) appear sharper than others, others dumber (Linda), but they’re all punch lines in an overly extended joke.

    The Coens in turn have made their careers with impeccable technique and an exaggerated visual style — they sure love their low-angle shots and traveling cameras — but it’s a wonder they keep making films about a subject for which they often evince so little regard, namely other people.
    Expand
Metascore
63

Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 37
  2. Negative: 1 out of 37
  1. 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.
  2. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    50
    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.
  3. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    30
    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.