Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Burn After Reading movie poster

Burn After Reading

Genre: Comedy, Crime
Rated: R
Directed by:
Ethan and Joel Coen
Starring: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, David Rasche, J. K. Simmons
Released by: Focus Features

In Short: The Oscar-winning Coen Brothers return to comedy with this completely inspired lunacy about lust, love, plastic surgery and the CIA.


Clever Coens Strike Again
Hilarious Comedy Hits Satiric Bulls-Eye

It can be hard to imagine anyone following up after winning the coveted Academy Award trifecta of "Best Picture," "Best Director," and "Best Screenplay" (for the movie No Country for Old Men) with yet another great movie, but brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have done just that with Burn After Reading.

Returning to the wonderful comedic form of Fargo (which won them their first Oscar for writing as well as seven total nominations), O Brother, Where Art Thou (also nominated), Raising Arizona, and The Big Lebowski, this time out the dynamic duo skewer the CIA, the health club and plastic surgery industries as well as the institution of marriage.

George Clooney and Frances McDormand in Burn After Reading
John Malkovich in Burn After Reading

They've assembled an absolutely brilliant cast, from John Malkovich's alienated CIA operative to Tilda Swinton as his shrewish pediatrician spouse, to her oafish, womanizing, and very married U.S. Marshall lover (George Clooney, who makes us laugh just about every time he is on screen).

Those three make up one side of the complicated craziness, with the always-fabulous Frances McDormand leading the other side as a plastic-surgery-obsessed health club assistant manager who recruits one of the club's dumbest trainers (Brad Pitt, in a completely inspired performance) into a screwy CIA blackmail scheme.

If it sounds complicated, it is. It's a goofily delightful, whacked-out ride toward the inevitable meeting of all the protagonists, which happens in a typically messy and (not-surprisingly) slightly violent Coen brothers signature denouement.

One thing you will feel certain of as the lights go on after seeing Burn After Reading is that like many other of the Coens' best works, this is a movie that is sure to get funnier and better each time you see it. And see it again you will, as this is sure to become another classic favorite in the brothers' ever-growing collection of cinematic perfection.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters

(Updated 05/31/11 BH)

The kinds of movies made for foodies, including classics such as Like Water for Chocolate and newer releases like Chef and Ratatouille.

Summer is here! Protect your skin from harmful UV rays all year round with GAYOT's Top 10 Sunscreens.