I am a simple man. Often times I look into a movie or TV show a bit before deciding to review it (avoiding the reviews of others as to not influence my own opinion beforehand, of course), but other times I simply see Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones on a cover together while scrolling through my streaming service options and I click it. It doesn’t hurt when the title of the film is something vaguely intriguing in and of itself, like, say, The Burial.
This is what happened last night when I opened my Amazon Prime streaming app in search of something to watch, and it is nice to have my simpleness rewarded: The Burial, a courtroom drama with a healthy dose of social and racial commentary mixed in, is quite good thanks in no small part to the electrifying performance of its cast, even if it is a bit unsubtle at times.
Normally I would avoid a film described as a “courtroom drama” like a swarm of flying, plague-infected sharks, but The Burial successfully entertained me simply because the cast is so incredibly watchable.
Jamie Foxx gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the charismatic Willie E. Gary, a star attorney who knows he’s awesome, relishes this fact, yet doesn’t let it make him unlikeable or out-of-touch.
At first I couldn’t tell if Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Gary’s client and funeral home director Jeremiah O’Keefe, was giving a more subdued performance in contrast to Foxx’s broader one or was simply phoning things in, but it eventually became clear that it was the former.
The two complement each other so well that it’s hard to believe the choice wasn’t intentional, and the friendship that blossoms between their characters is hard not to smile at.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Alan Ruck, who I will always think of as Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, who does an uncomfortably good job at portraying an ally of the two who is civil yet nonetheless always seems to have barely concealed prejudice bubbling just beneath the surface.
It was a bit odd how often the subject of race came up in a court case that essentially boiled down to one white guy suing another white guy for breach of contract, but the social commentary this offered drew some interesting parallels between the history of racial discrimination in the United States and the dangers of unchecked greed in a capitalistic society.
Sometimes the message was offered a bit heavy handed, but more often than not it was done quite well and made sense considering the context, making not only for an interesting courtroom battle but also a nice story of brotherhood and friendship between Gary and O’Keefe.
Sometimes it feels as if The Burial is going for the easy feel-good movie tropes that are guaranteed to get a positive reaction from the audience, but when it goes for these layups it scores without fail.
The Burial is on Amazon Prime.