Films & Schedules

  • Burn After Reading

  • Joel Coen

  • Ethan Coen

96 minutes

Production Company:
Working Title Films, Ltd.
Executive Producer:
Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robert Graf
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Production Designer:
Jess Gonchor
Emmanuel Lubezki
Roderick Jaynes
Peter Kurland
Carter Burwell
Principal Cast: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt

Canadian Distributor:
Alliance Films
US Distributor:
Focus Features
International Sales Agent:
Focus Features International

Friday September 0509:30PM ROY THOMSON HALL Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Saturday September 0611:00AM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

The unstoppable Coen Brothers return to crime and comedy in their latest work, a screwball tale of espionage and narcissism. With off-the-charts star power and a go-for-broke attitude, this shamelessly funny lampoon harks back to earlier crime capers like The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona.

George Clooney plays a former security agent, drifting around the edges of Washington society and bedding women almost as a reflex. His current lover is a high-powered bully (Tilda Swinton) who has nothing but contempt for her husband, Osborne (John Malkovich), even before he gets fired from the CIA. Osborne begins writing a tell-all book, but a disc of his secrets slips out of his grasp. When the disc falls into the hands of two hapless gym employees who need money, the game is on. They are played, with delicious dim-wittedness, by Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt.

Joel and Ethan Coen are practised masters of farce. The twists come fast and furious, and the characters get more and more outlandish as the pressures of blackmail, jealousy and murder wind them up. As the antics escalate, so does the pure pleasure of watching these actors run with the story. Malkovich gives a bravura performance as the alternately rueful and raging Osborne. Clooney was born to play in Coen brothers comedy, and nails the offbeat rhythms this material demands. McDormand crafts a character with idiosyncrasies to match her work in Fargo. And Pitt, with the tallest hairdo this side of Johnny Suede, proves once again his willingness to wrap movie-star charisma inside a cloak of complete ridiculousness.

Even with this impressive cast, there is room for scene-stealing supporting performances. As the lovestruck gym owner, Richard Jenkins is the only voice of reason, and J.K. Simmons gets some of the biggest laughs as the chronically nonplussed CIA chief. After last year's dark masterwork No Country for Old Men, it is a joy to see the Coens return with this comic spree. Their talent for stripping characters down to their most ludicrous imperfections is, in a word, hilarious.

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen‘s first feature, Blood Simple, screened at the Festival in 1984. Their subsequent films include Raising Arizona (87), Miller's Crossing (90), Barton Fink (91), which won both Best Director and the Palme d'Or awards at the Cannes Film Festival, The Hudsucker Proxy (94), Fargo (96), which earned an Academy Award® for best original screenplay, The Big Lebowski (98), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (00), The Man Who Wasn't There (01), Intolerable Cruelty (03), The Ladykillers (04), No Country for Old Men (07), which won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 2007 Academy Awards, and Burn After Reading (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award