Review: Burial Features a Brutal, Fact-Based but Fictional World War II Mission

In Burial, the second feature from writer/director Ben Parker (2016’s The Chamber), we are dropped into a story that takes place during a period in World War II history that’s not often examined. The war isn’t technically over, but Hitler is dead and there are only small pockets of Germans still resisting and fighting Allied forces. These partisans are called “Werewolves,” but really they are just young people and stalwarts who can’t stand the idea of losing, so they hide in the woods waiting for foreign soldiers to pass by so they can pick them off. But rather than dealing with American or British forces, Burial deals with a small band of Russian soldiers tasked with a shocking (and purely fictional) mission that involves transporting a crate (that looks an awful lot like a coffin) out of Germany, through Poland, and back to Russia, where they must personally deliver it to Stalin so he can confirm its contents.

But as they pass through Poland, they are met with a group of German Werewolves who seem to know what the Russians are transporting and want to get their hands on it just as badly as the Russians want to give Stalin his early Christmas present. There’s a great deal of infighting among the Russians about how to handle the situation or even the mission in general, and it’s up to a particularly savvy intelligence officer, Brana Vasilyeva (Charlotte Vega), to remind everyone what their mission is and how it would be better to simply leave the area with their cargo than try to engage the militia in the woods.

In a nearby Polish village, they meet the mysterious Lukasz (Tom Felton) who claims he’s against the Werewolves. It becomes clear after a time that he’s been spending a great deal of the war hiding from both sides of the fight because of who he is and to whom he’s married. Still, he finds them the perfect place to hide their crate and fortify themselves against the Germans. There’s no illusion in Burial that Russian forces were always admirable during WWII. In fact, Brana has to break up one of her officers collecting what he calls “the spoils of war” from a local pub waitress. But she does have her allies among the team, including the closest thing to a hero the film has, a soldier nicknamed Tor (Barry Ward).

Burial doesn’t shy away from severe violence and brutal behavior, nor should it. Both sides of this conflict have reasons for being fed up with the conflict, and to a certain degree, they all just want it to be over and not feel like the losers, making them angry and eager to grasp at even the smallest victories against their enemies. 

As for the package, the film is bookended with the story of an elderly Jewish woman named Anna (Harriet Walter), whose house is broken into by a skinhead looking for a certain rumored wartime artifact that he believes she possesses. Most of the film is her telling the young scoundrel the story of the crate’s contents, so there’s a somewhat satisfying conclusion to that big mystery. It isn’t that difficult to figure out what the contents of the crate are, but we eventually get a rather startling visual confirmation. Overall, Burial has a fairly interesting and unique story, even if it’s sometimes difficult to tell who are the Russians and who are the Germans, especially since so much of the film takes place at night. Still, Vega’s solid performance anchors and mostly dominates the testosterone-heavy cast quite effectively, and raises the movie above its somewhat predictable foundation.

The film is now playing in select theaters and available via VOD.

Did you enjoy this post? Please consider supporting Third Coast Review’s arts and culture coverage by making a donation. Choose the amount that works best for you, and know how much we appreciate your support! 

Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

Plan Your Life with 3CR Highlights

Join Our Newsletter today!