September 2nd, 2022
STARRING: CHARLOTTE VEGA, HARRIET WALTER, TOM FELTON, BARRY WARD
DIRECTED BY: BEN PARKER
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Burial has a unique mixture of taking the audience on a journey and then pushing us into a corner, leaving us to watch characters fight for their survival, and hopefully there’s someone standing in the end. The difference for this scenario is the reason why these characters are in a tight spot, which is that writer director Ben Parker has made, in a slight fact-fictitious drama about a group of Russian soldiers tasked with bringing the remains of Hitler from Berlin to Russia for Joseph Stalin. It could be a simple point A to point B situation but in a time of war there’s always death around the corner. It’s all of the questions and threats of fear that make Burial an intense and often unpredictable film.
The story begins at the end, where Anna Marshall (Harriet Walter) sits in her living room, watching the news that the Soviet Union has fallen, with the Berlin wall finally coming down. In the quiet of her home, her dog begins to bark at the door, and soon a masked man enters the home, but being ex-military her skills allow her capture this mystery man, a neo-nazi with the goal of taking out the last survivor of her Russian platoon. She cuffs him to a post and keeps him captive, before we are taken back to Berlin 1945, to meet young Brana (Charlotte Vega), one of the five soldiers tasked with taking these remains back. A memento to Stalin, her superior officer calls it, but for our hero and the rest of the team dealing with this task, it becomes a ticket to hell. What follows is the trek, with the coffin in the back of their truck, but along the way a group of German snipers known as “werewolves” are lurking in the trees with hopes to recover the body for their own German patriotism.
Within the plot of Burial is guidance from Parker and his screenplay. The director is dangling the carrot in front of a donkey, leading us down the road, but unafraid to take the story into a dark situation. There are brief stops along the road, as the task is to bury the casket with every stop, keeping the Macguffin close to the vest. It’s followed by conversations at the campfire, while fellow general Tor (Barry Ward) reminds Brana that their mission is sacred, something they must succeed at, or else the war would have all been in vain. It’s within these brief moments where the infighting derails the mission, while the broader picture begins to develop, as members are taken out one by one, dwindling the remaining soldiers to deliver the casket to a measly three members.
While viewing Burial, there are similar productions that come into mind. I was reminded of recent films such as Hell Hath No Fury, Munich: The Edge of War– which dealt with earlier plots to assassinate Hitler- and even Sam Mendes’ faster paced, single shot WWI film 1917, but as all of those works are, they have an underlying message about survival, a theme that sits in the marrow of all WWI & WWII cinema. What director Ben Parker so elegantly displays is how quickly a mission can change, the characters shift, as village member Lukasz- notably played by Harry Potter star Tom Felton- aids them in a spat at a bar in town, but notably supplies them with the tools for a last stand.
Although at times the pacing is at times too deliberate to a fault, it is the final act that is incredibly thrilling, with bullets flying all around, barns lit on fire, and a constant darkness hovering in the atmosphere. That bleak tone is removed by the glowing steel reserve of Charlotte Vega, who instantly becomes the true star of Burial, never letting up in her performance. She’s our conduit, never giving up on a mission doomed from the start, but for every character to be standing at the end is an answer the audience will seek. Burial succeeds at reminding us of the old saying that “war is hell”, ringing true under the most dire of circumstances, but this is not the kind of movie you put into the ground. You at least see the mission through to the very end.
IFC FILMS PRESENTS BURIAL AND IT IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 2ND, 2022.
Written by: Leo Brady