THE BURIAL | USA | 2023 | 126m | English
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tommy Lee Jones, Jurnee Smollett, Mamoudou Athie, Bill Camp
Directed By: Maggie Betts
As he turns 75, Biloxi, Mississippi funeral director Jeremiah O’Keefe (Tommy Lee Jones) feels blessed by his wife and children and the legacy he’s proud to leave to them. But debts force Jeremiah to sell parts of his business to a corporation rapidly buying up funeral homes, cemeteries, and insurance companies to profit from what its CEO, Ray Loewen (Bill Camp), refers to as “the golden age of death.”
When Jeremiah’s contract with Ray is in dispute, he solicits the services of Willie E. Gary (Jamie Foxx), a flamboyant personal-injury lawyer who hasn’t lost a case in 12 years — but who doesn’t know a thing about contract law. After Ray hires a hotshot defence team, it becomes clear the odds are stacked against Jeremiah and Willie. But despite their different backgrounds, they recognize qualities in each other they feel certain will see them through: faith, integrity, and a tireless fighting spirit.
The Burial takes a probing look into a multibillion-dollar death-care industry poised to take advantage of people during the most vulnerable moments in their lives. It is also wildly entertaining, capitalizing on Jones’ magnetic decency and Foxx’s singular ability to balance showmanship with heart. The way these men join forces will have you cheering.
TIFF REVIEW BY: Darren Zakus
RATING 4 out of 5
The Burial is the definition of a crowd pleasing film, mixing the legal drama with moments of hilarity that is brought to life by an excellent cast led by the sensational pairing of Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones, creating a film that will have you erupting into laughter while wearing a massive grin on your face.
Legal dramas always have the potential to be great crowd pleasing films. It’s not just because of the important subject matter that they tend to cover, but because of the way that the stories can be told. They can be dramatic, thrilling, compassionate, but they also lend themselves to grand standing comedic moments, and The Burial captures all of this with ease. Not only does the film feature the first time that two Hollywood legends have shared the silver screen, but it is an entertaining film from start to finish that captures the best of the legal drama. Bringing to life this truly incredible true story and giving inspiring portrayals of the real life individuals at the center of the story, The Burial is going to win audiences over immediately.
After encountering a contractual problem in selling part of his family business to a powerful corporation, Jeremiah O’Keefe hires flashy personal injury lawyer Willie Gray to help him save his family business. However, what should be a cut and dry contractual dispute in court quickly unravels into an examination of race, power and injustice that changes both O’Keefe and Gray’s lives forever.
If there is one reason to watch The Burial, it is the teaming up of Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones. Both of them are outstanding actors who are considered among some of the most iconic Hollywood performers of all time, so naturally the first time they share the screen together is nothing short of an acting tour de force. On their own, Foxx and Jones are excellent. Foxx oozes with charisma in a truly magnetic performance as Willie Gray that energizes the entire film, marking for one of his best performances in years. He’s over the top in the best way, infusing the film with an infectious comedy energy but also bringing moments of compassion to the film that instantly reminds audiences of what an outstanding actor he is. Jones captures the Southern, salt of the Earth and good nature of Jeremiah O’Keefe with an exquisite but quiet grandeur that demands your respect. But as a duo, Foxx and Jones are an unstoppable force! They play off each other perfectly, clashing with a vigor when called for by the story, while at the same time bringing to life a wonderful friendship. It’s taken this long for them to share the screen for the first time, but hopefully it won’t take this long for Foxx and Jones to share the screen again!
There is no distracting from the sensational pairing of Foxx and Jones, though, the supporting cast is equally as impressive as they are. Jurnee Smollett is brilliant as opposing counsel Mame Downes, the killer lawyer going head to head with Willie Gray. It’s a grandstanding performance that matches Foxx’s energy at every turn, creating some truly memorable and outrageously hilarious courtroom moments that deliver the crowd pleasing moments audiences will be looking for from this film. Alan Ruck is fun as Mike Alfred, playing the role with an air of privilege and leaning heavily into his comedic talents, most notably during one unforgettable cross examination. And Amanda Warren is a bundle of joy and true pleasure as Willie Gray’s wife Gloria, lighting up the screen every second she graces it with her presence.
Bringing to life this unbelievable true story is a winning screenplay from Doug Wright and Maggie Betts. Adapting Jonathan Barr’s article, the film captures the profound injustices of the story and transforms this David versus Goliath legal drama into a crowd pleasing legal dramedy. Never for a second taking its foot off the pedal, the film moves at a brisk pace, creating a truly entertaining experience that never loses sight of the gravity of the court case at the heart of the story. While a dull contractual dispute is at the center of the film’s conflict, the legal battle covers so much more and pulls in matters of race, racism and wealth into the conflict to create a wild court case for all to enjoy. Coincidentally, the OJ Simpson criminal trial was taking place at the same time as this story and stole the media attention, but the parallels between the two legal battles and the differing methods of legal counsel is an added layer of intrigue to the story that enriches the viewing experience for audiences.
Never for a second do Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones fail to entertain, delivering magnificent performances that make The Burial one of the best films of the fall movie season. From show stopping performances from the entire cast and bringing to life a truly entertaining and riveting legal battle, The Burial is entertainment at its finest that will have you laughing and cheering from your couch!