Brana is the most outspoken mouthpiece for the film and its firm understanding of a soldier’s role. She knows before they open the box that the body they are transporting is Hitler because she has been told that his identity was proven by his dental records. Brana also knows enough to identify with Justyna, who complains that the Russians and Germans are both alike in their mutual post-war cruelty and macho arrogance. Brana sees enough of the actions of Ilyasov and his men to know that sexual violence is as real a threat as the Nazis hoping to assassinate them and disrupt their high-stakes mission as well. As Brana contemplates her responsibility—to hand over Hitler’s body, despite her personal disgust for the man and his actions—she still knows what she must do: hand over the body, after all.
Unfortunately, the threat posed by Wolfram and his men never escalates to the point where they seem believably impressive as human representatives of the horrors of war. Ilyasov and his guys are also straightforward as war movie antiheroes go. We are shown how they can pose a certain kind of threat, despite their other qualities, but that threat is never really addressed.
Parker’s script doesn’t need to give viewers an ending, but a sense of momentum or just instant gratification could have helped put it over the top. A strong ensemble cast does a lot with a little, especially Vega and Skinner, who are quite good at selling Parker’s flat-footed dialogue. Composer Alex Baranowski‘s droning string score also deserves special credit for almost overcoming the film’s general lack of tension.
“Funeral” is about the complicated nature of being a soldier, especially how much you have to rely on your comrades to have your back. But while Parker always clearly broadcasts his film’s concern with moral relativity and the fog of war, “Burial” never really comes together as a drama. Bald dialogue and a by-numbers plot is one thing, but sluggish, under-lit action scenes and overwhelming scene-to-scene pacing are quite another.
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