Burn After Reading

A recently dismissed CIA analyst is blackmailed by a pair of hapless gym workers who stumble on a CD ROM containing his memoirs.


Linda and Chad (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) are a classic pair of hapless criminals from the Coen Brothers canon. They could be straight out of Fargo, if McDormand wasn’t already a cop in that film. Pitt is excellent as a ridiculously attractive goofball, and McDormand unsurprisingly excels as Linda, mining deep into her vast reserves of likeability.

The all star cast is rounded off with excellent performances from George Clooney and John Malkovich, who looks like Victor Meldrew but sounds like Kif from Futurama. Tilda Swinton and JK Simmons are also on hand to lend gravitas to important supporting roles.


The story is good fun, as the characters’ undercover activities get mixed up with their under-the-covers activities. Like many Coen Brothers comedies it’s only intermittently laugh-out-loud funny, but the farcical plot of incestuous investigations is consistently entertaining nonetheless.

At 90 minutes it’s certainly a breezy film, but isn’t as insubstantial as Hail, Caesar, even if the ending feels a few scenes short. Overall it’s a fun caper, sitting comfortably at the lighter end of the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre.

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