Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 317 Ratings

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 37
  2. Negative: 1 out of 37
  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. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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."
  6. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Shallow and proud of it, an antic cartoon that lacks the comic inspiration to go the distance.
  7. 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.

See all 37 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 97 out of 161
  2. Negative: 42 out of 161
  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, 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.
  2. KevinH.
    Sep 27, 2008
    First off let me preface this review with the statement that this movie isn't for everyone. Comedy films are the most subjective of all genres. When i saw this film last night i couldn't understand why i was laughing every 20 seconds whereas only a couple other people laughed at all during the entire screening. If you have watched pretty much all the coen brothers comedies since fargo you will probably love this. If you have a very dark sense of humor and your favorite rolling stones song is paint it black this is your movie. The Coen brothers have the best ability for characterization of any filmmakers working in america. Never completely stereotypical characters but stereotypical enough that we can relate to them and recognize a type. The film is a comic symphony where the laughs are interspersed at the beginning and the big laughs are set up for later only to reach a crescendo in the last half hour. it's a movie you really have to pay attention too and if you pay enough attention you will be rewarded. Is the film really about anything. My feeling is that the coen brothers films never have a giant, didactic and overarching theme. The satirical look at the characters displays tiny small themes that are all found within the subtext of the immediate scene. The acting is amazing with brad pitt doing what will be remembered as one of his best films along clooney. so understated most of the way through but they are all so immersed in character that it's amazing and whenever a character does something that seems ridiculous, the actors are that character so indelibly that it makes sense. In regards to the coen brothers exploiting there characters with a mean spirited hatred. I disagree. To understand character as well as the coen's do, one has to love people in general. The only way you can pull off this type of comedy is to love people because of their idiosyncracies and not in spite of them. there comedy sensiblities remind me of preston sturges 40's films and yes O Brother Where art thou's title is a reference to sturges' sullivan's travels. Could have been a 10 that i gave it but it wasn't perfect. Expand
  3. Sep 11, 2012
    Again a masterpiece by the Coen brothers. More bizarre than ever before and starring fantastic actors (every single one of them plays great!) and has a brilliant screenplay. A comedy film like it was meant to be. Everything's really good here, except some over-acting by McDormand and Pitt here and there. Expand
  4. MattA
    Jan 18, 2009
    Deliciously dark, and entertaining. Great performances by all of the leads and supporting characters. Burn After Reading, is not your typical movie. As complex as the story may seem, it really... really isn't. The only thing that makes it complicated is the fact that a bunch of egomaniac idiots can't seem to grasp the big picture. The only one who seems to be level headed is the chief of the CIA. The movie is funny, not on the rolling on the floor kind of way, but in the "oh my god, what the hell were they thinking. They're idiots" sort of way. I can easily see how this is not right for everyone. But to me, i enjoyed myself. Expand
  5. DaveJ.
    Sep 15, 2008
    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.
  6. CraigR.
    Mar 2, 2009
    Truly dismal. A fim about nothing. It's like they got 3/4 of the way through and gave up any hopes of a story.
  7. LaurenE.
    Sep 12, 2008
    Stupid movie, about stupid people.

See all 161 User Reviews