Movie Review: Burn After Reading (2008)

Spies. Romanticized in movies to the point of it being kind of ridiculous. And sure, we have some of the more low-key spy thrillers out there that aren’t all “Look at me, I’m James Bonding all over Europe, motherfucker”. But sometimes you just need someone or something to take the piss out of the general genre.

Ladies and gents… “Burn After Reading”.

The plot is about a whole bunch of things. But the main one is basically that two gym employees (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) get hold of the memoirs of CIA agent Osborne Cox (John Malkovich). And they then plan to try to sell this intel and soon we have a twisty-turny plot that was pretty good. The plot had a lot of interesting and entertaining moments, but I was never really into it. Now, I know that this is meant to mainly be a comedy taking the piss out of the spy genre, and it does that pretty well, but my heart was never truly into it. I don’t know how to exactly put it, but to try to summarize it… The plot itself was decently interesting and entertaining, but I was never truly into it. I guess it just didn’t invest me as much as other satires have.

The characters in this movie are all very entertaining and memorable. John Malkovich was fantastic as Osborne Cox, this kind of alcoholic CIA agent who’s prone to anger. George Clooney plays US Marshal Harry Pfarrer and he was great in the role. His character was a very twitchy and suspicious/paranoid and a bit ADHD and Clooney did all of that very well. Frances McDormand plaus one of the two gym employees who gets hold of Cox’s memoirs and she’s simply terrific in the role. Brad Pitt played the other gym employee and his character was just kind of an idiot… and he was so fun to watch. The character was very entertaining and Pitt was great in the role. And then we also have Tilda Swinton playing Cox’s wife who also happens to be having an affair with Pfarrer and she was great in the role. She was probably the most serious of the characters in the movie and Swinton gave a great performance. Every actor in the movie does a great job.

The score for the movie was composed by Carter Burwell and it was pretty great. Not only was it well composed, but i would also say that it was a joke in itself. Let me explain. This movie is a comedy, but the music is incredibly serious. We see the stuff happening and we laugh, but the music sounds like something we’d hear in a serious spy movie, and I honestly think it was a deliberate choice by Burwell and the directors. So yeah… it was really good and it worked very well for the movie.

This movie was written and directed by the Coen brothers, and they of course did a great job. The shots look great and the writing is on point as always. Sure, not every line is a punchline, but the dialogue is snappy and fun enough to keep a person entertained. And there’s of course violence in the movie. Sure, it doesn’t happen all the time… in fact, it rarely happens in the movie. But when it happens, it hits hard.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 78% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 63/100. Roger Ebert gave it 3/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,0/10.

“Burn After Reading” is a fun satire of the spy genre. It has a good plot, great characters, great performances, great music, great directing, and great writing. However, I am bringing it down a bit because of the plot never truly hooking me into it. Time for my final score. *Grabs envelope*. My final score for “Burn After Reading” is an 8,88/10. So even though it’s flawed, I’d say that it’s worth buying.

My review of “Burn After Reading” is now completed.

*Burns envelope*.

 

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