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Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt
Writing Credits:
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

A disk containing mysterious information from a CIA agent ends up in the hands of two unscrupulous and daft gym employees who attempt to sell it.

Box Office:
$37 million.
Opening Weekend
$19,128,001 on 2651 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 12/21/2008

• “Finding the Burn” Featurette
• “DC Insiders Run Amok” Featurette
• “Welcome Back George” Featurette


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver;
-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Burn After Reading [Blu-Ray] (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 11, 2019)

Sometimes when a director wins the Best Picture Oscar, he takes years to launch a follow-up project. That didn’t occur in the case of the Coen brothers. After they took home the big prize for 2007’s No Country for Old Men, they hopped right back on the horse for 2008’s Burn After Reading.

Longtime CIA analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) gets demoted, so he quits. He decides to take this opportunity to write his memoirs about his life in the agency.

Osborne’s wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) doesn’t take kindly to this change of affairs, and she plans to divorce him. As part of this, she snoops into his financial records to plan for her future.

When Katie’s lawyer’s secretary accidentally leaves a CD-ROM with this text on it at the gym, personal trainer Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) snares it. He sees Cox’s name and hopes to get a reward when he returns it to Osborne, and he involves co-worker Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) as well.

This doesn’t go as Chad hoped. When they call Cox, the former CIA man becomes belligerent, and that angers Linda.

She tells him they’ll contact him with their demands. This sets up an ever-escalating conflict that eventually involves others such as Katie’s married lover Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), an agent with the Treasury Department who also happens to fool around with Linda.

Got that? Good – now throw it out the window, as virtually none of the plot details really matter.

Burn digs deep into all its complications but never really manages to go anywhere with them. The movie’s all set-up and no payoff, so the film layers snag upon snarl upon twist without much evident point.

This leaves us somewhat unsatisfied. The movie builds itself in such a complex manner that it leads us to believe it might actually go somewhere.

My plot synopsis probably makes the tale come across as more concise than it is. Instead, the Coens take their sweet time as far as exposition goes, so we don’t fully grasp the overall nature of the piece until at least halfway into it.

And that would be fine with me, as I certainly don’t demand that a story reveal all its intricacies within the movie’s first five minutes. The disappointment comes from the manner in which Burn progresses once it sets all its players in motion. The Coens concern themselves so much with the pieces that they never quite figure out how they want to finish the scenarios.

Not that this means Burn fails to provide an enjoyable ride. I admit I’m not a big fan of the Coens, and I think their comedies tend to be condescending, as they paint their subjects in a smug and superior manner.

Nonetheless, they obviously have talent, so even with the attitude, they bring zest and panache to the affair. It provides decent amusement in spite of itself.

Of course, such a stellar cast doesn’t hurt. All of them embrace their characters with gusto and make the most of their roles.

I especially like Pitt’s work. He delivers a delightful dimwit and lights up all his scenes.

All of this makes Burn moderately entertaining but not anything more than that. Anyone who expects a classic from the Oscar-gilded Coens will find disappointment. The movie spins its wheels too much to truly satisfy.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D+

Burn After Reading appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a somewhat drab but usually good presentation.

Sharpness mostly worked fine. A few soft shots materialized, but the majority of the film brought us competent accuracy and delineation.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. I also detected no signs of print flaws.

Colors also seemed more than acceptable. The film’s palette tended toward a cool amber or teal feel, and those elements appeared well-reproduced.

Blacks were dark and tight, while shadows showed positive delineation. No one will use this as a demo image, but the movie showed pretty positive visuals.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Burn wasn’t great, but it seemed competent, as most of the movie focused on general ambience. The front and rears speakers added a decent sense of place, and a few louder elements like thunder occasionally added a little zest to the proceedings.

Music also boasted nice stereo delineation. However, the film’s scope remained limited, so we didn’t get much to make the mix stand out from the crowd.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech showed good delineation and clarity, as the lines remained natural.

Effects didn’t have much to do, but they offered acceptable accuracy and life. Music worked best, as the score seemed dynamic and full. Nothing here turned this into a great mix, but it deserved a “B-”.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the DVD version? Audio offered a bit more oomph, though the limited nature of the soundscape held back the improvements.

Visuals proved more effective, though, as the Blu-ray offered superior colors, accuracy and smoothness. The DVD looked semi-ugly, so this became a clear upgrade.

Only a few extras accompany Burn. Finding the Burn runs five minutes, 31 seconds as it presents notes from writers/directors/producers Joel and Ethan Coen and actors Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, and Richard Jenkins.

“Finding” looks at the project’s story and a few aspects of the shoot. It falls into the category of “promotional featurette” and provides few insights. Fans might give it a look for some shots from the set, but they’ll learn almost nothing about the production.

For the 12-minute, 24-second DC Insiders Run Amok, we hear from Joel and Ethan Coen, Jenkins, McDormand, Clooney, Swinton, Malkovich, costume designer Mary Zophres, and production designer Jess Gonchor. “Amok” examines cast, characters and performances, sets and locations.

“Amok” definitely provides more substance than “Finding”, especially when we hear from Zophres, as she offers some nice notes about the visual design for some characters. The piece never becomes terribly substantial, but it includes a few decent insights.

Welcome Back George goes for two minutes, 51 seconds. It features Joel and Ethan Coen, Clooney, Malkovich, and Zophres.

“George” works just like the character aspects of “Amok” except it concentrates solely on Clooney’s role. Why not include this snippet as part of “Amok”? I don’t know. It’s interesting but it has no reason to stand on its own.

The Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading delivers moderate charm but ultimately disappoints. While it boasts a great cast and creates intrigue in its first half, it sputters too much after that. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture and audio along with minor supplements. Reading becomes lackluster Coens.

To rate this film, visit the DVD review of BURN AFTER READING

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