Written and directed by Ben Parker.
Starring Harriet Walter, Tom Felton, Charlotte Vega and Bill Milner.
A small group of Russian soldiers is tasked with bringing the discovered remains of Hitler to Stalin in Moscow.
by Ben ParkerThe camera) sophomore role Burial It certainly doesn’t leave audiences yearning for a fancy premise, and while it’s a solidly executed excursion, it doesn’t hit the gonzo beat that genre-savvy audiences might be hoping for. Basically, let’s get the elephant out of the room; If you’re expecting to see real werewolves or a zombie Hitler in this thing, prepare for disappointment.
Parker’s film opens in London in 1991, when the Soviet Union is falling apart. An elderly woman, Anna (Harriet Walter), is attacked in her home by a violent skinhead, but she is prepared for him. After subduing her assailant, Anna tells him a story from her past, where at the end of World War II she worked as a Russian intelligence officer under her real name, Brana Vasilyeva (Charlotte Vega). With a small group of soldiers, their mission was to transport a coffin containing the remains of Adolf Hitler back to Stalin in Russia, but along the way the squad faced resistance from the notorious Nazi Werwolf unit, who wished to claim the Führer’s body. and bury it forever.
Burial is nothing more than a cleverly crafted period thriller, dripping with palpable mood and intrigue about where it’s all going. Again, though, to avoid disappointment, it’s best to know up front that it never becomes soldier dogs. This is a surprisingly restrained and understated movie for the most part, running at a fairly low energy level for much of its 95-minute runtime, while unfolding in periodic, professional bursts of decent but unremarkable action. Much of the focus is instead on the characters who, thankfully, turn out to be quite convincing.
Parker’s script also does more than use the historical setting as a wholly shallow backdrop; there’s a sharpness here to recall the horrors of war, whether it’s soldiers abusing local women, enough for the locals to think the Bolsheviks are just as bad as the Germans, or Brana struggling to give orders to his colleagues masculine without facing sexist opposition. On a broader level, Hitler’s coffin also represents the desperate tug-of-war between opposing parties determined to write history, with both sides bent on using the remains for their own ends; one to expose a truth, the other to hide.
The main reason this stew comes together is fundamentally the cast; As our leading lady Brana, Charlotte Vega gives a steely and composed performance as a woman committed to proving that Hitler was merely flesh and blood, and thereby making sure that she is incredibly easy to support. Although the marketing has unsurprisingly emphasized Tom Felton’s role as Lukasz, a Polish villager with German ancestry and a very personal reason for hating Nazis, he doesn’t fully enter the narrative until the second half of the film, but he certainly enjoys a solid dynamic with Vega. Also worth noting is Harriet Walter, who gives a brief but memorable turn as the older Brana/Anna in the film’s enveloping narrative.
Overall, fans of the genre might be left wishing this alt-history bit would push things a bit further; bloodshed is rare at best until the end of the film, and even then, it’s largely reserved for realistic combat violence. The script also has its iffy moments, from nose-to-nose parallels and clunky dialogue: one character even says “there’s a wolf at the door!” at one point, and a titular double meaning that some may find too cute for its own good.
But for the most part, Burial it’s an engaging war thriller topped off by a robust cast and solid technical presentation, even if it may be too serious for its own good.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow Me On Twitter for more cinematic ramblings.