In the world of legal dramas, ‘Burial’ stands out as an interesting tale of justice with a David versus Goliath spin. At the forefront is the tenacity of an ostentatious personal injury attorney. Directed by Maggie Betts and available on Prime Video, this based-on-a-true-story film brings to life the courtroom battle between a small-town funeral director, played by the venerable Tommy Lee Jones, and a Canadian conglomerate, led by the formidable Bill Camp.
At the center of this legal showdown is Jamie Foxx’s portrayal of Willie Gray, a charismatic attorney who loves making a scene. Foxx’s exceptional performance captures the essence of a son-of-a-sharecropper turned multimillionaire attorney with a perfect blend of heart and doggedness. His portrayal keeps the character grounded, preventing it from veering into caricature, even as he takes on the powerful Loewen Group on behalf of his client, Jeremiah O’Keefe, portrayed convincingly by Jones.
The film unfolds against the backdrop of the ’90s, a time when the OJ Simpson verdict dominated headlines, providing a compelling context for the legal battles depicted in ‘Burial.’ The narrative weaves through the intricate details of a contract case involving funeral homes but smartly positions it as a broader story about race and corporate malfeasance.
Foxx’s character, Gray, initially hesitant to take on the case, transforms it from a small-sum contract dispute into a powerful narrative about racial injustice and corporate exploitation. The decision to demand a $100 million settlement from the Loewen Group adds a layer of tense complexity to the story, setting the stage for a gripping courtroom drama.
The supporting cast adds depth to the film, including Mamoudou Athie as attorney Hal Dockins and Jurnee Smollett as opposing counsel Mame Downes. Smollett’s portrayal is particularly noteworthy, infusing the character with intelligence and mischievousness, which makes her an absolute pleasure to watch. The pair creates some amusing moments of backroom bargaining.
While ‘Burial’ may take some liberties in its portrayal of the legal intricacies of the case, it successfully captures the essence of the real-life events. The film navigates through the complexities of the courtroom with finesse, offering a compelling mix of legal drama, social commentary, and moments of genuine humor.
The courtroom scenes, especially the cross-examination led by Gray, are nothing short of exhilarating. Bill Camp, portraying Ray Loewen, effectively conveys the arrogance and contempt of a corporate giant underestimating the resolve of a predominantly Black jury.
Even with the Hollywood-style shenanigans added in, at its core, ‘Burial’ offers a decent courtroom drama that pleases on several levels. It easily earns 4 stars.