Review by Sean Boelman
Telling a fictional story against the backdrop of real history is one of the most delicate things a screenwriter can do, especially when it’s a historical event that is as destructive as World War II. Burial had to tread carefully to avoid being seen as offensive, and while it’s not quite that bad, it also doesn’t work.
The film follows a group of Russian soldiers who have been tasked with a very important mission: bringing the remains of Hitler back to Russia where Stalin can use them to make a point. Revisionist history like this has made for some interesting action movies in the past, but Ben Parker’s script isn’t interesting enough to work.
Parker is obviously trying to blend slasher tropes into this war film plot, but it largely does not work. Both genres require a certain amount of mayhem and action to be effective, and despite a ninety minute runtime, this movie feels like it is full of fluff. On top of that, there is a framing device about one of the soldiers as an old woman telling her story to a neo-nazi, and it’s unnecessary.
The film attempts to say some interesting things about national identity and patriotism, but its impact is weakened by the fact that the movie is about Hitler. It’s really hard to think of this story as anything but insensitive. After all, the film treats one of the most devastating tragedies in human history as if it were for character development.
Perhaps the biggest issue with the movie is its lack of character development. It should be easy to get the audience to align with a character that is effectively a badass female spy, but it’s (somewhat miraculously) really cold and distant. And the rest of the squadron is even less developed than the protagonist.
The biggest-name actor in the cast is Tom Felton (best known for his role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), but his role is pretty small and doesn’t let him do much. Charlotte Vega plays the main character, and while she’s good enough, it is, again, a role that feels like it could have been so much more.
Parker does a decent enough job of immersing the audience in this late-WWII forest world, but he completely comes short at building any form of suspense. Ultimately, what Parker struggles with is the movie taking itself too seriously. It’s a movie about Hilter’s corpse being transported through the woods — it should be fun and campy.
Burial has some aspects that are noteworthy — like the visuals — but the script is lacking in the substance it would have needed to be successful. It’s not fun enough to work as a B-movie, nor is it good enough to be a great war film, making it pretty unspectacular as a whole.
Burial hits theaters and VOD on September 2.