Inspired by a 1999 article by Jonathan Harr chronicling a real-life case, The Burial, directed by Maggie Betts, premiered at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival to critical acclaim. This David vs. Goliath-type drama features top-notch performances from two Academy Award winners, and it offers an excellent take on the lesser-known story of when a small business owner took on a giant corporation and won.

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The Burial review

3.5 /5
  • Jamie Foxx
  • Tommy Lee Jones
  • Touching character arcs


  • Contract law
  • Convoluted at times

Tommy Lee Jones stars as 75-year-old Jerry O’Keefe, a WW2 veteran and  Mississippi funeral home owner forced to sell part of his business to the Canadian-based Loewen Group, owned by the unscrupulous Raymond Loewen (Bill Camp).

It soon becomes clear that the Loewen Group has no intention to complete the purchase. Instead, they’re waiting for him to go bankrupt so they can take over his business for cheap. 

The Burial

Ignoring the advice from his long-term lawyer and friend, Mike (Alan Ruck), Jerry decides to sue Loewen and hires the smooth-talking personal injury lawyer Willie E. Gary (played by Jamie Foxx) to represent him. Willie is a larger-than-life character who thrives in the center of a captive audience. 

He’s highly successful, has a jet (aptly called The Wings of Justice), and hasn’t lost a case in over a decade. However, Willie is a personal injury attorney with little to no experience in contract law. 

A star-studded gem

As far as courtroom dramas go, the subject of this one is relatively boring. The movie even makes this point by showing jury members falling asleep while listening to various witnesses explaining the intricacies of contract law. But the film itself is compelling in the way it tells its less-than-exciting story, mostly thanks to the performances given by Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones. 

The Burial

The Burial isn’t a film about contracts, nor is it about funerals. This film is about people coming together to fight for a shared goal. During the runtime, we get to spend time with these characters and understand who they are as human beings. 

Tommy Lee Jones’s character decided to sue because the corporation attacked him where it hurt the most: his legacy. He worked his whole life and wants to leave something behind for his many children and grandchildren. 

At first, Willie is less than thrilled about taking a case not in his area of expertise. After all, he made his fortune by winning personal injury claims for his exclusively African-American clientele. But meeting Jerry and hearing his story compels the lawyer to want to help him. 

The Burial

Jamie Foxx gives an inspiring performance as the personal injury lawyer keen to do what’s best for his client, while Tommy Lee Jones does a fine job as the aggrieved funeral director who wants justice. 

It’s impossible to fault the performances given by this excellent cast. The two leads carry the whole feature, making it worth watching several times.

Overall, The Burial is a compelling drama with great writing, directing, and excellent performances from its two main stars. The film manages to add a fresh take on the done-to-death courtroom drama. 

What are the other critics saying about The Burial?

MacTheGuru was impressed with the narrative and the performances. 

Shahbaz and Anthony from The Movie Podcast describe The Burial as “a great film with powerhouse performances.”

Ryan Reviews Everything praised the film and the cast’s performances.

Lori C
Lori C

Lori C. is an entertainment writer who studied Film and Television at University. She watches and reviews films and series from most genres, but some of her favourites include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, and True Blood.

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