Burn After Reading is the latest movie from Joel and Ethan Coen to hit the movie theaters. It boasts a stellar cast: Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, and a host of other very talented actors who are not exactly household names.
The print ads for the movie carry the tag line “intelligence is relative”, and that certainly seems to be the case. Burn After Reading opens at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. John Malkovich is Osborne Cox, a long-term CIA agent about to be re-assigned. Tilda Swinton portrays Katie Cox, Osborne’s wife. She is a doctor who is involved with George Clooney’s character, whose wife is a well-known children’s book author.
Somehow, these intelligent, accomplished people get involved with Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand). They are personal trainers and close friends. Neither one of them is too bright, but they are ambitious. Linda’s current ambition is to change her life by getting extensive, and expensive, plastic surgery. Thanks to a CD found in the women’s locker room at the gym, Chad and Linda cook up an improbable blackmail scheme to get the money for Linda’s surgeries. There are numerous mishaps along the way, of course.
This movie is funny and fun. The Washington D.C. locations are great (although most of the film was shot on location elsewhere). This is a great reminder that the people we rely on in this country for intelligence are as fallible and flawed as the rest of us.