In my film reviews, I start with the benchmark of five stars and then deduct half or one point if the film falls short in any of the following categories: · Storyline · Screenplay · Acting · Direction · Character Arcs
Movie Review: The Burial - A Riveting Legal Drama on Amazon Prime
Dive deep into the heart of legal battles and racial tensions with The Burial, a gripping 2-hour Amazon Prime film that brilliantly tells the story of Willie Gary, a determined black lawyer with humble beginnings. Growing up in the challenging environment of migrant farm communities across Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, Gary defies all odds by passing the bar exam and establishing the first black attorney firm in Martin County, FL. His firm gains a reputation for taking on gigantic corporations, engaging in multi-million-dollar lawsuits against industry titans like Disney and Anheuser-Busch.
A flashy dresser and a former owner of not one, but two private jets, Gary’s journey is as captivating as it is inspiring. Based on a 1999 New Yorker piece by Jonathan Harr, The Burial centers around William O’Keefe, a funeral home chain owner in Mississippi, and his legal battle against Raymond Loewen, a powerhouse in the Canadian funeral industry. Although Gary’s forte is personal injury law, O’Keefe is unwavering in his belief in Gary’s capabilities to handle a breach of contract case.
The film boasts a stellar cast, with Jamie Foxx delivering a compelling performance as Willie Gary. Tommy Lee Jones shines as Jeremiah O'Keefe, alongside Jurnee Smollett as Mame Downs, Mamoudou Athie as Hal Dockins, and Alan Ruck as Mike Allred.
The Burial is a masterclass in storytelling, transforming what could have been a mundane courtroom drama into a thought-provoking and emotionally charged film. Screenwriter Margaret Betts brings her A-game, infusing the story with racial undertones and turning the legal proceedings into a captivating narrative. The interaction between Gary (Foxx) and Downes (Smollett) is electric, serving as a highlight of the film. The film doesn't hit the mark as a comedy-drama, which some promotions have tagged it, leaving some ambiguity about its intended tone.
Despite its 2-hour runtime, The Burial is so engaging that it feels shorter. However, it leaves audiences with lingering questions, particularly regarding the startling transformation from Gary’s ostentatious displays to a more principled demeanor. What accounted for that?
While The Burial excels in many areas, some elements could have been better fleshed out, such as the role of Gary’s legal team (which disappeared quite early on and never resurfaced) and the opening church sequence. The connection between the racial themes and the lawsuit could have been more explicitly drawn.
Storyline: Engaging but leaves some questions unanswered (minus a half-point).
Screenplay: Skillfully crafted.
Acting: Outstanding performances from the lead cast.
Character arcs: Gary’s transformation could be more clearly defined (minus a half-point)
Bottom line: The Burial is a must-watch for its poignant exploration of race and legal battles, backed by solid performances from the cast. Despite some storyline gaps, it is a powerful adaptation of actual events.