The counter-current ‘s against Burn After Reading continues in this filing from the Venice Film Festival by Time‘s Richard Corliss: “The viewer’s fun, such as it is, comes from guessing where the movie is headed and why it’s going there. The ultimate question, from this admirer of virtually all the brothers’ work, from the early Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing to their previous Clooney collaborations O, Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty, is a plaintive ‘what the heck kind of film is this?’
“As close to an answer as you’ll get here is that Burn After Reading is an essay in the cocoon of ignorance most of us live in. It pushes the old form of movie comedy — smart people saying clever things — into collision with today’s dominant model of slackers whose utterly unfounded egotism eventually worms its way into an audience’s indulgence. Which is to say that most of the people here seem like bright lights but are actually dim bulbs. They’re not falling-down stupid; they radiate the subtler variety of idiocy that can be mistaken for charm, decency or even brilliance.
But in the end, says Corliss, “the movie’s glacial affectlessness, its remove from all these subpar schemers, left me cold and perplexed.”