Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Jamie Foxx, Mamoudou Athie, Jurnee Smollett, Alan Ruck, and Bill Camp
Director: Maggie Betts
I’ve always been a sucker for a courtroom dramedy, so The Burial certainly had my interest. Plus, after Jamie Foxx’s resurgent turn in They Cloned Tyrone, I was curious to see if he was back-back. Oh, he’s BACK. Foxx is electrifying every second he’s on screen, which is only enhanced by the quiet demeanor of Tommy Lee Jones. Together, the pair had me fully invested in their case as it went through ups and downs. Yes, it’s a little formulaic, but that’s forgivable when bolstered by good performances and solid storytelling, which is exactly what The Burial supplies.
I didn't fully know what I expected out of The Burial, but it wasn't this. I'm not saying it's unlike anything out there (believe me, that's not the case), but I wasn't expecting something this funny to hold this much weight. Tommy Lee Jones is mostly just being Tommy Lee Jones (not bad, just expected), but Jamie Foxx and Alan Ruck are particularly hard to keep my eyes off of. This is a breezy watch, for sure, but the dramatic depth this film had in its storytelling caught me off guard and left me emotionally satisfied.
The Burial makes sense as a straight-to-streaming release since it won’t blow your socks off while providing a feel-good win for the “little guy.” Tommy Lee Jones plays his role with a quiet assuredness that probably accurately reflects the affect of the real-life person he portrays, but still comes across as a little flat. The “inspired by true events'' story is already a win, but there was little added to bolster the appeal…except for the addition of Jamie Foxx. The talented actor is ELECTRIC, and his singular performance provides the emotional substance that makes the film a recommended watch.
I went into The Burial anticipating a legal thriller, but left having experienced what wanted to be a feel-good dramedy. It has an unexpectedly charming energy that’s carried by Jamie Foxx’s second top-tier performance since June (They Cloned Tyrone being the other). However, while I enjoyed the film, it relies too heavily on that energy to the detriment of genuinely exploring any of its themes. From the courtroom battles to the racial undertones, many scenes and performances feel like shortcuts to the next applaud-worthy moment, and it’s a shame that much of this great cast and healthy story seem downsized to prop up emotional platitudes.
If not for Jamie Foxx’s charismatic performance, I suspect that The Burial would be a serviceable but forgettable courtroom drama. Don’t get me wrong, Tommy Lee Jones is good too, especially as he plays the somber straight man to Foxx’s brilliant flamboyance, but the court case at the center of the film feels a little vanilla despite touching on weighty themes of race and one percenters v. the poor. It’s decent enough as a functional crowd-pleaser, but it could have used a bit more gravitas to make the messaging hit harder. Still, for a straight-to-streaming release, it’s worth watching, particularly for genre (or Foxx) fans.
The Burial really surprised me. It’s feel-good and humorous, yet still an engaging and fast-paced courtroom drama with some timely and significant themes. I was fully invested in the relationship between the protagonists, Jeremiah O’Keefe, played by Tommy Lee Jones; and Willie E. Gary, portrayed by Jamie Foxx with an inspiring and electrifying performance. Their shared values and honourable fight against an unethical corporation are heart-warming and easy to root for, making for a crowd-pleasing and unquestionably entertaining film.
The perfectly cast Jamie Foxx absolutely shines, commanding every scene and stealing the entire show in The Burial. Despite hitting the all-too-familiar story beats of a courtroom drama, there remains an undeniably wholesome charm to this film that you can’t help but root for the underdog as they take on the stereotypical super-rich one-dimensional villain. Granted, the pacing feels a little sluggish, and it could have probably dove a little deeper into some of the heavier subject matter; however, the courtroom scenes are always exceptionally engaging, as is the dynamic between Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones.
This film was reviewed by Nick and Adriano as part of Bitesize Breakdown's coverage of the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.