Burn After Reading is a 2008 black comedy film written, produced, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.The film stars George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, and Brad Pitt. It was released in the United States on September 12, 2008, and it was released on October 17, 2008 in the United Kingdom. The film had its premiere on August 27, 2008, when it opened the 2008 Venice Film Festival.
Plot by wiki:
Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst who decides to write a memoir about the CIA after getting fired. His wife, pediatrician Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), wants a divorce and copies his personal files onto a compact disc. Her lawyer’s receptionist accidentally leaves the disc at Hardbodies, a health club.
Two employees of the gym, Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), get hold of the disc and assume it is highly classified information. At first, Chad and Linda plan to give the disc back to Osbourne for a reward, the money to pay for Linda’s cosmetic surgery. However, they resort to blackmail. Chad meets Osbourne who, aware that the “information” is merely his memoir, refuses to pay and punches Chad in the nose. Chad explains to Linda that Osbourne hit him and refused to give him the money. Linda then rams her car into the back of Osbourne’s car and decides to take the information to the Russian embassy. At the embassy, she hands over the disc, promising that she will give more information afterwards. But because they don’t actually have any more information, they decide to break into Osbourne’s house to steal more.
Katie has been having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), a womanizing Treasury agent and U.S. Marshal. By chance, he has recently met Linda online and begun an affair with her as well. Chad stakes out Osbourne’s house and breaks in when he sees Harry and Katie leave. Harry, however, returns and startled to find Chad hiding in a closet, shoots him point blank in the face. Chad is not carrying ID and has cut the labels out of his clothes; when Harry sees this, he thinks Chad is a spy and disposes of the body. Two days later at the CIA headquarters, an official named Palmer (David Rasche) and his director (J. K. Simmons) learn that information from Osbourne has been given to the Russian Embassy. They are perplexed and decide to maintain observation until the situation “makes sense.”
A few days later, Harry leaves Osbourne’s house after a brief argument with Katie. On his way out, he spots the man who has been trailing him. Harry discovers that the man works for a divorce firm hired by his wife, who is later revealed to have been cheating on him as well. Harry is devastated and goes to see an agitated Linda, who confides in Harry that her friend Chad is missing; he agrees to try to help find him (not knowing Chad is the man he killed in Cox’s home earlier).
The next morning, Harry and Linda meet in a park, and she provides him with more information about Chad’s disappearance. When Harry realizes that Chad is the man he killed, he becomes paranoid once more and flees in terror, assuming Linda is also a spy. Linda then turns to Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins), the manager of Hardbodies, who has feelings for her. Believing the Russians have kidnapped Chad, he agrees to look for more information in Osbourne’s computer. But Osbourne, finding that Katie has emptied their bank account, decides to break into his own house. Finding Ted at his computer, Osbourne shoots and wounds him, and then chases him out of his house and brutally kills him on the street with a hatchet.
At CIA headquarters a few days later, Palmer and his director try to understand what exactly happened. It is revealed that while trying to board a flight to Venezuela Harry was detained because his name was on a hot list, Ted’s body has been disposed of and the CIA are holding Linda who is promising to keep quiet about everything if they will pay for her cosmetic surgery. A CIA agent shot Osbourne during his hatchet assault on Ted and the bullet has put Osbourne in a coma. The director instructs Palmer to let Harry fly to Venezuela, saying that the US has no extradition treaty there, decides the CIA will pay for Linda’s surgery and postpones considering Osbourne’s situation until he regains consciousness, which is not likely. The film ends with the director telling Palmer that they didn’t really learn anything.