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Burn after reading - George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Intelligence is relative.

At the headquarters of the CIA, analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) arrives for a top-secret meeting. Unfortunately for Cox, the secret is soon out: he is being ousted. Cox does not take the news particularly well and returns to his home to work on his memoirs and his drinking, not necessarily in that order. His wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is dismayed, though not particularly surprised; she is already well into an illicit affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), a married federal marshal, and sets about making plans to leave Cox for Harry.

Elsewhere in the suburbs, and seemingly worlds apart, Hardbodies Fitness Centres employee Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) can barely concentrate on her work. She is consumed with her life plan for extensive cosmetic surgery, and confides her mission to can-do colleague Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). Linda is all but oblivious to the fact that the gym's manager Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins) pines for her even as she arranges dates via the internet with other men.

When a computer disc containing material for the CIA analyst's memoirs accidentally falls into the hands of Linda and Chad, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. As Ted frets, “No good can come of this,” events spiral out of everyone's and anyone's control, in a cascading series of darkly hilarious encounters.

Based on former CIA director Stansfield Turner's 2005 non-fiction tome Burn before reading: Presidents, CIA directors and secret intelligence.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Burn after reading theatrical one sheet image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film comedy spy spoof CIA agent tell-all assassin book lost Coen Brothers agent dark blackmail

Persons of interest

  • Brad Pitt .... Chad Feldheimer
  • George Clooney .... Harry Pfarrer
  • Tilda Swinton .... Katie Cox
  • John Malkovich .... Osbourne Cox
  • Frances McDormand .... Linda Litzke
  • Richard Jenkins .... Ted Treffon
  • Matt Walton .... Del
  • Stansfield Turner .... Author: Burn before reading: presidents, CIA directors and secret intelligence
  • Joel Coen .... Director
  • Ethan Coen .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Burn after reading is either a black comedy about the bumbling and ill-informed efforts of the USA's intelligence agencies or a documentary. It's hard to tell. Either way, if you're intelligent then you'll laugh and cry at this movie.

The comedy, spy movie Burn after reading is directed by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen and stars George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt.

Government security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Infrequent strong violence, coarse language)

Surveillance time

96 minutes (1:36 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 16 October 2008

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