Burn After Reading (15)

Film

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

User ratings:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>3</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Oct 14 2008

With their hangdog mugs now nestled against the bosom of mainstream Hollywood, indie-crossover darlings the Coen brothers have concocted another of their Hawkesian screwball quickies in which an ensemble of beautiful A-listers merrily play the fool. Already a hit in the US, ‘Burn After Reading’ is a snappy, confident, lightly satirical and stridently mischievous entertainment that arrives on the back of their sand-blasted lament for times past, ‘No Country for Old Men’.

But while the tenor may have changed, the madcap template is very much in place. The rub: a disc containing the memoirs of recently dismissed, mid-level CIA operative Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich at his high-falutin, foul-mouthed best) floats into the hands of two gormless gym employees-turned-recreational grifters, plastic surgery-obsessed singleton Linda (Frances McDormand) and soft liberal airhead Chad (Brad Pitt, right). After an inevitably calamitous attempt at bribery (‘We’ve got your secret shit!’), the pair find themselves cack-handedly doorstepping the Russian embassy in search of a swifter pay-off. Fold into that a parallel story where George Clooney’s rubber-faced philanderer, Harry, tries to juggle semi-serious flings with Linda and Osbourne’s flamed-haired ex, Katie (Tilda Swinton).

Considering the Coens’ past form with intricately plotted farces (‘Raising Arizona’, ‘Fargo’, ‘The Big Lebowski’), this does feel effortless to the point that you might imagine they could have scribbled it on the back of a napkin between breakfast and brunch. Yet, beneath its deadpan façade, nimble direction and robust photography (care of Emmanuel Lubezki) lies a cheerily nihilistic (misanthropic even?) work which paints its characters as preening, self-obsessed, idiot savants who wear stupid clothes, habitually lie, misuse the internet for dating and wouldn’t know a conscience from a Coke bottle. Even at their lowest ebb (2004’s ‘The Ladykillers’) the brothers’ palpable affection for old movies injected some humanity into the overly sardonic proceedings; but here, even the movies are bad, as seen in their snarkily anodyne film-within-a-film, ‘Coming Up Daisy’.

The audience are, in the end, placed in the boots of JK Simmons’s flummoxed CIA chief who, having been nervously informed of the preceding antics, finds it tough to fathom how these people could have been so damn stupid. It’s possibly the Coens’ least romantic film, which makes the cynical tone a tough pill to swallow, but chances are that you’ll be too busy hooting and chuckling idiotically to notice.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Oct 17, 2008

Duration:

96 mins

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:18
  • 4 star:16
  • 3 star:6
  • 2 star:10
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|152
1 person listening
Dinah

Frances McDormand was as usual great. After I realised it was a black comedy I enjoyed it.

Dinah

Frances McDormand was as usual great. After I realised it was a black comedy I enjoyed it.

John Cooper

What I wrote was . . a `subtle` parody . . .The ` subtle` is clearly the dimension that Kevin misses in his `plain and simple` analyis of this enjoyable Coen Brothers film.

John Cooper

What I wrote was . . a `subtle` parody . . .The ` subtle` is clearly the dimension that Kevin misses in his `plain and simple` analyis of this enjoyable Coen Brothers film.

John Cooper

A subtle parody of the spy-thriller genre by the inimitable Coen brothers . . . By highlighting the basic human drives and weaknesses, the Coens demystify the usual cinematic depiction of the espionage game. and deliver `ordinary ` people with basic human frailties . . . adultery, fear of ageing, fear of redunancy, and material greed. In this chaotic world, serendipity rules, . . morality and logic don't apply, . .and events are out of control . . . .Frances MacDormand is the most sympathetic character, as she strives desperately for the plastic surgery which she hopes will bring her success in the internet dating game . . . . . That she perseveres and triumphs punctuates the comedic tone to this film which prevails over the darker elements in this quintessential Coen Brothers product.

John Cooper

A subtle parody of the spy-thriller genre by the inimitable Coen brothers . . . By highlighting the basic human drives and weaknesses, the Coens demystify the usual cinematic depiction of the espionage game. and deliver `ordinary ` people with basic human frailties . . . adultery, fear of ageing, fear of redunancy, and material greed. In this chaotic world, serendipity rules, . . morality and logic don't apply, . .and events are out of control . . . .Frances MacDormand is the most sympathetic character, as she strives desperately for the plastic surgery which she hopes will bring her success in the internet dating game . . . . . That she perseveres and triumphs punctuates the comedic tone to this film which prevails over the darker elements in this quintessential Coen Brothers product.

DV

Thanks 1 star people. You've just reminded me how good this film is. Must watch it again!

DV

Thanks 1 star people. You've just reminded me how good this film is. Must watch it again!

BarbieDoll100

Why Brad Pitt and George Clooney would appear in this film is beyond me. It stunk! What a waste of their talents.

BarbieDoll100

Why Brad Pitt and George Clooney would appear in this film is beyond me. It stunk! What a waste of their talents.

alan nocker

i have seen the film twice and two weeks since my last viewing am still smiling. Brad Pitt is hilarious. his face in the wardrobe in his final scene still makes me crack up. The reviewer needs to see it again. The Coens are great.

alan nocker

i have seen the film twice and two weeks since my last viewing am still smiling. Brad Pitt is hilarious. his face in the wardrobe in his final scene still makes me crack up. The reviewer needs to see it again. The Coens are great.

Tuskan360

Worst film I've ever watched, there was no plot line to speak of, it just never went anywhere. There were no real jokes, just lots of swearing for no good reason.

Tuskan360

Worst film I've ever watched, there was no plot line to speak of, it just never went anywhere. There were no real jokes, just lots of swearing for no good reason.

Anthony

This is the worst film I have ever seen. I didn't realise it was a comedy until I came online disappointed to see what the reviews said. I didn't laugh once, I didn't even come close to raising a smile. I thought it was going to be some kind on intelligent slow burner but I was wrong. I'm actually annoyed this film stole 95 minutes of my life. Were such lines as 'We've got your secret shit' and mistaking 'drivel' for 'dribble' supposed to be funny? Absolutely pathetic.

Anthony

This is the worst film I have ever seen. I didn't realise it was a comedy until I came online disappointed to see what the reviews said. I didn't laugh once, I didn't even come close to raising a smile. I thought it was going to be some kind on intelligent slow burner but I was wrong. I'm actually annoyed this film stole 95 minutes of my life. Were such lines as 'We've got your secret shit' and mistaking 'drivel' for 'dribble' supposed to be funny? Absolutely pathetic.

miles

this represents everything that has gone wrong with hollywood -a real pity

miles

this represents everything that has gone wrong with hollywood -a real pity

Geezer

The Coen's worst since Crimewave. Indulgent and unfunny, it sneers at all its characters, and the audience for watching in the hope of being entertained. It also makes their other comedies seem worse in retrospect, as their quirky humour now seems more like arrogance than it did before. The ending is basically the Coens admitting they have no ending, and no, they don't care.

Geezer

The Coen's worst since Crimewave. Indulgent and unfunny, it sneers at all its characters, and the audience for watching in the hope of being entertained. It also makes their other comedies seem worse in retrospect, as their quirky humour now seems more like arrogance than it did before. The ending is basically the Coens admitting they have no ending, and no, they don't care.

mockingbird

One star for the last 20 minutes,would have been none but I just managed to stay awake.I got the idea that this film was made with the aim of showing us how clever the director was rather than attempting to entertain the audience.

mockingbird

One star for the last 20 minutes,would have been none but I just managed to stay awake.I got the idea that this film was made with the aim of showing us how clever the director was rather than attempting to entertain the audience.

Roy

Malkovich is fantastic, Pitt and Clooney are very entertaining. The plot is bizzare typical of the coen brothers. This is on a par with the big leb

Roy

Malkovich is fantastic, Pitt and Clooney are very entertaining. The plot is bizzare typical of the coen brothers. This is on a par with the big leb

marion

very poor i was so bored i fell asleep,worst film i have seen with two brill actors

marion

very poor i was so bored i fell asleep,worst film i have seen with two brill actors

Paolo

I don't get the negative reviews. Sure it wasn't intellectually demanding, and the end may leave a few unanswered questions for those (myself included) who kind of like closure - BUT this was funny. Its dry humour, poking fun of the human condition, with just a hint of slapstick (Clooney's chair especially) - was just plain amusing. It's been a while since I heard the whole audience splitting its sides - but here that's what happened. Watch it and decide.

Paolo

I don't get the negative reviews. Sure it wasn't intellectually demanding, and the end may leave a few unanswered questions for those (myself included) who kind of like closure - BUT this was funny. Its dry humour, poking fun of the human condition, with just a hint of slapstick (Clooney's chair especially) - was just plain amusing. It's been a while since I heard the whole audience splitting its sides - but here that's what happened. Watch it and decide.

Mr P

Very weak film indeed, never got going and story doesn't flow - Poor! The A-list incumbents must be a tad embarrassed on watching the play back. And David Jenkins who wrote the Time Out review above needs to get his head from up his nether regions with his needless over complication of the English language - get over yourself fella! Off for a pint...

Mr P

Very weak film indeed, never got going and story doesn't flow - Poor! The A-list incumbents must be a tad embarrassed on watching the play back. And David Jenkins who wrote the Time Out review above needs to get his head from up his nether regions with his needless over complication of the English language - get over yourself fella! Off for a pint...

keeks2006

this film didn't have a great store line it was just ok. i wouldn't tell my friends to go out and see it as soon as .

keeks2006

this film didn't have a great store line it was just ok. i wouldn't tell my friends to go out and see it as soon as .

Alice

I've already seen Burn After Reading twice at the cinema and am considering seeing it again. This is clearly a film based more strongly on the characters than the plot, but this is easy to enjoy. The five main characters are well developed and compliment each other. Brad Pitt's finest performance, by far. And let's all remember; not every single film needs to make a big statement. Sometimes it just needs to be. Hello, did anybody lose their secret CIA shit? Over and out.

Alice

I've already seen Burn After Reading twice at the cinema and am considering seeing it again. This is clearly a film based more strongly on the characters than the plot, but this is easy to enjoy. The five main characters are well developed and compliment each other. Brad Pitt's finest performance, by far. And let's all remember; not every single film needs to make a big statement. Sometimes it just needs to be. Hello, did anybody lose their secret CIA shit? Over and out.

Neill

thoroughly enjoyed it. J Malkovitch did remind me of Victor Meldrew though! I DON'T BELIEVE IT!

Neill

thoroughly enjoyed it. J Malkovitch did remind me of Victor Meldrew though! I DON'T BELIEVE IT!

Fred

Great film. It didn't matter that the story of the film didn't really lead anywhere. This was as good as Fargo for me.

Fred

Great film. It didn't matter that the story of the film didn't really lead anywhere. This was as good as Fargo for me.

Paula

Somewhat disappointing. I felt the characters and story line were underdeveloped. Brad Pitt gave the best performance, in my opinion - somewhat different from his usual role. Clooney was far from his best in this and John Malkovitch did well with a thin plot. Maybe I was expecting too much, but this was just too lightweight for me.

Paula

Somewhat disappointing. I felt the characters and story line were underdeveloped. Brad Pitt gave the best performance, in my opinion - somewhat different from his usual role. Clooney was far from his best in this and John Malkovitch did well with a thin plot. Maybe I was expecting too much, but this was just too lightweight for me.

Tobi_fence

personally i laughed plenty of times at this film but found it ultimately empty and contrived. The characters come of as cooky and interesting for the first 45 minutes or so but then they don't go anywhere. They learn nothing and fail to go anywhere. Because of this these caricatures feel hollow and unrealistic. arguably this is the point of the film, these characters represent some facet of human society and the greed which imprisons us all.. but ultimately who cares? The characters i found interesting and funny at the start of the film seem unbelievable and stupid by the end. Their actions seem driven by plot rather than by their own will or logic which left me constantly thinking "why did they (the coens) do that?" at best you could describe it as a funny film about the "human condition" but that would make it sound funnier and more intelligent an effort than it actually is. To put it bluntly i didnt care about anyone on screen 45 minutes in and that took away from the gags and just left me bored. (oh and statements like its fantastic and if you dislike it you "clearly didnt get it" are unhelpful and completely obnoxious).

Tobi_fence

personally i laughed plenty of times at this film but found it ultimately empty and contrived. The characters come of as cooky and interesting for the first 45 minutes or so but then they don't go anywhere. They learn nothing and fail to go anywhere. Because of this these caricatures feel hollow and unrealistic. arguably this is the point of the film, these characters represent some facet of human society and the greed which imprisons us all.. but ultimately who cares? The characters i found interesting and funny at the start of the film seem unbelievable and stupid by the end. Their actions seem driven by plot rather than by their own will or logic which left me constantly thinking "why did they (the coens) do that?" at best you could describe it as a funny film about the "human condition" but that would make it sound funnier and more intelligent an effort than it actually is. To put it bluntly i didnt care about anyone on screen 45 minutes in and that took away from the gags and just left me bored. (oh and statements like its fantastic and if you dislike it you "clearly didnt get it" are unhelpful and completely obnoxious).

kizzy

the film was a bit of a disappointment, and i'm usually the first to like dark, obscure things. i understood it but didn't enjoy it, it was tedious and had no real point. i also think there was more swearing than necessary. i agree with the over acting comment because it wasn't at all realistic, the characters were just annoying. not the worst thing i've ever seen though.

kizzy

the film was a bit of a disappointment, and i'm usually the first to like dark, obscure things. i understood it but didn't enjoy it, it was tedious and had no real point. i also think there was more swearing than necessary. i agree with the over acting comment because it wasn't at all realistic, the characters were just annoying. not the worst thing i've ever seen though.

iain

What a bizzare film! dark comedy this certainly is. first 20 mins very slow. after that it picks up. brad pitt plays a highly amusing role as the gormless gym freak and john malcovich also puts in a good performance. worth going to see but definitely not for everyone.

iain

What a bizzare film! dark comedy this certainly is. first 20 mins very slow. after that it picks up. brad pitt plays a highly amusing role as the gormless gym freak and john malcovich also puts in a good performance. worth going to see but definitely not for everyone.

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