- The Burial is an acclaimed legal drama with a stellar cast, including Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones, based on a true story.
- The movie explores economic exploitation and racial injustice within the funeral business, exposing a larger network of corruption.
- Director Maggie Betts delivers a strong sophomore effort, while the cast, including rising star Mamoudou Athie, gives standout performances.
An acclaimed legal drama with a stellar cast, The Burial features two Oscar-winning actors in the roles of its main characters along with many other talented performers. The Burial is based on a true story, taking inspiration from Jonathan Harr’s article of the same name published in The New Yorker in 1999, about a charismatic personal injury lawyer who took up the case of the financially struggling owner of a funeral home. As this duo goes against a corporate giant in the funeral business, the Prime Video original movie’s plot exposes a larger network of economic exploitation and racial injustice.
Leading The Burial‘s ensemble are Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones, both of whom have dabbled in true story adaptations and biopics before. So, it’s not surprising to see them in full command of their performances here while honoring their real-life counterparts. The Burial’s cast also includes reputed character actors such as Alan Ruck and Bill Camp, and even a rising star like Mamoudou Athie gets to have a meaty part in the movie. As much as it’s a triumph for this remarkable cast, The Burial also serves as a strong sophomore effort for director Maggie Betts, whose debut feature was the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning drama Novitiate.
Jamie Foxx As Willie E. Gary
Jamie Foxx leads the cast of The Burial as Willie E. Gary, a real-life lawyer with a successful track record. Taking up a Mississippi funeral home operator’s case in 1995 proved to be a particular challenge, as the movie shows, with some changes to the true story. Foxx is no stranger to biopics having won the Oscar for playing pianist Ray Charles in Ray. He also portrayed wrongfully convicted pulpwood worker Walter McMillian in Just Mercy and multi-instrumentalist Nathaniel Ayers in The Soloist. His other mainstream appearances include the Marvel Comics supervillain Electro in the Spider-Man movies, the titular slave-turned-cowboy in Django Unchained, and cab driver Max in Collateral.
Tommy Lee Jones As Jeremiah O’Keefe
Jerry O’Keefe is an owner of a funeral home who was on the brink of losing his family business when he crossed paths with Willie E.Gary. This real person is played in The Burial by Tommy Lee Jones, whose other fact-based roles include American businessman and alleged John F. Kennedy assassin Clay Shaw in JFK and the Civil War-era Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens in Lincoln. Sci-fi fans remember him as the uptight Agent K in Men in Black while he also made his presence felt in the crime genre as U.S. Marshall Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive, a performance for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Jurnee Smollett As Mame Downes
Having an educational background from Harvard, strong-willed lawyer Mame Downes represents the wealthy corporation that aims to take over Jerry O’Keefe’s business. The character is played by Jurnee Smollett, who gained early fame as a child actor in the 1990s sitcoms On Our Own and Full House. She later earned a Critics Choice Award for Best Young Performer for playing secretive 10-year-old Eve Batiste in the Southern Gothic drama Eve’s Bayou. More recently, Smollett joined the DCEU playing the superheroine Dinah Lance/Black Canary in Birds of Prey and also garnered an Emmy nomination for playing 1950s-era photographer Letitia “Leti” Lewis in Lovecraft Country.
Alan Ruck As Mike Allred
Mike Allred was a good friend of Jerry O’Keefe’s who also represented him as his attorney. The character is played by Alan Ruck, who has been acting since the 1980s but surged back into popularity with Succession. Ruck earned an Emmy nomination for playing the eldest of the Roy siblings, the dim-witted Presidential candidate Connor Roy, in the HBO drama. Ruck is also known for playing the titular protagonist’s best friend, Cameron Frye, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, eccentric storm chaser Rabbit in Twister, and naive tourist Doug Stephens in Speed. Ruck also starred in the sitcom Spin City as narcissistic City Hall chief of staff Stuart Bondek.
Mamoudou Athie As Hal Dockins
A junior lawyer who introduces Willie E. Gary to Jerry O’Keefe, Hal Dockins is one of the movie’s most compelling characters, and viewers are bound to wonder what happened to the real Dockins after The Burial. The junior counsel is played by Mamoudou Athie, who is known for playing the trauma-struck archivist Dan Turner in the Netflix horror drama Archive 81. Athie’s initial claim to fame was playing hip-hop legend Grandmaster Flash in the musical series The Get Down. Athie has also starred in major movies like Jurassic World: Dominion, in which he played communications expert Ramsay Cole, and Pixar’s Elemental where he voiced the water element Wade Ripple.
Pamela Reed As Annette O’Keefe
Jerry O’Keefe’s wife, Annette, begins to worry about her husband when she comes across the unexpectedly high number of debts her family faces. But by The Burial‘s ending, she continues to harbor hope and support for her husband. The heartfelt character is played by Pamela Reed, who notably starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop as his cheerful on-screen police partner Detective Phoebe O’Hara. She also had a main role in the post-apocalyptic series Jericho as Gail Green, a former nurse and a strong family matriarch. Parks and Recreation fans will also remember her as protagonist Leslie Knope’s mother, Marlene Griggs-Knope.
The Burial Supporting Cast & Characters
Bill Camp as Raymond Loewen – The ruthless Canadian businessman who plans to take over O’Keefe’s business. The part is played by noted character actor Bill Camp, who has had supporting roles in numerous multi-genre projects like Joker, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lincoln, 12 Years a Slave, and Sound of Freedom.
Amanda Warren as Gloria Gary – Willie E. Gary’s energetic wife. Amanda Warren is known for her roles as a pressured mayor in The Leftovers and dressmaker Betty in the fictionalized history series Dickinson. She also appeared in The Adjustment Bureau, Mother, and the Martin McDonagh movies Seven Psychopaths and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Dorian Missick as Reggie Douglas – Fictional lawyer Reggie Douglas is directly inspired by actual attorney Robert Parenti. Dorian Missick joined The Burial cast to play the character, having previously played recovering gambling addict Damian Henry in Six Degrees. He also had supporting roles in Deliver Us from Evil, The Bounty Hunter, and The Manchurian Candidate.
Lance E. Nichols as James E. Graves Jr. – American lawyer James E. Graves Jr., who allies himself with Willie E. Gary and his team, is played by Lance E. Nichols. Before joining the cast of The Burial, the actor was best known for playing the dentist Larry Williams in the HBO drama series Treme. He also had supporting roles in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and House of Cards.