Burial is a period thriller that hits enough of the right notes to leave you satisfied while never striking just the right chord. It remains a compelling film with great performances from Charlotte Vega and Tom Felton.
London, 1991. The home of an old woman (Harriet Walter), who watches the news of the collapse of The Soviet Union, is broken into by a violent neo-Nazi (David Alexander), hunting for evidence from WWII. But he gets a little more than he bargained for as she begins to tell him of her experiences in 1945 with her team that tried to take Hitler’s remains back to Stalin.
There are a number of bumps along the way in Burial, one of which is the apparent ability of a character to survive anything that hits him, be it bullets or knives. He just keeps trucking on. Secondly, there is just a pinch too much going on, making the story a pinch convoluted for its own good. When the film should be kicking on, it delays and holds itself back to have another turn in the tale. It adds up, and when a film like this should be barrelling headfirst towards its finale, we glacially make our way there.
Interestingly Burial is set up tonally and atmospherically like a horror film. We know our band of Soviets are going to come afoul of something, yet in the forests, we do not know who or what it is that will be coming for them. The menace or potential menace of the forest always has you on edge, and brilliantly so, Rein Kotov shoots some great stuff here. But, as the film unfolds, those horror elements fade away, and we get to a more standard, if not compelling, war thriller.
When the film touches upon the ideas and becomes an examination of the thought process of the power of belief. The Germans want the body of Hitler back, not to keep it safe and to give him a burial his followers might want. No, they want his body hidden from sight, so the mystery of if he escaped from that bunker is, in fact, true. To keep the belief, the lie going in the face and in spite of all else. When we see characters begin to discuss this, it becomes fascinating. Felton’s Lukasz wants to destroy the body of the man that caused so much pain to millions, but in doing so, that keeps the mystery alive. Rightly or wrongly, in Brana’s eyes, she needs that body to get to Moscow for the opposite of reasons. In the middle of a graphic war thriller, thought-provoking moments arise.
We have some strong performances here (despite the accents and the decision to subtitle certain languages), with Vega and Felton coming out on top. Felton is playing the burned from every side character very well and pulling the emotional weight of the film with Vega when required. Vega holds her on here as a woman who wants to ensure that the body they are carrying can be verified can be vilified so that others can be deterred from such efforts again.
Burial is another improvement from director Ben Parker. As a fictional historical thriller, it has a lot of good moments, and when the fighting gets going, it feels desperate, with men and women fighting for their lives and nothing else. Characters are far more well-rounded than you would expect in such a film that does its best to keep itself grounded, despite the storyline. A decent viewing is to be had here.
Available on digital 26th September
Early EST on selected platforms from 12th September from 101 Film
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