Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Movie Review: Buried

Buried *** ½
Directed by:
Rodrigo Cortés.
Written By: Chris Sparling.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds (Paul Conroy).

Buried is one of the most claustrophobic movies I have ever seen. It takes place entirely inside a coffin buried somewhere in the middle of the desert in Iraq. Inside the coffin is Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), a civilian truck driver whose convoy was attacked. Most of the others were killed, but he was kept alive and buried in this coffin. All he has is an old cell phone, half out of batteries, and a Zippo for most of the movie (he will later discover more helpful sources of light). Unlike the upcoming 127 Hours, which also features a single character trapped by himself, this movie offers no flashbacks, no chance encounters with others. It quite simply traps you in the ground with Paul as he tries in vain to communicate with people on the cell phone. He can make and receive call all right – he spends most of the movie on that phone – but he can seemingly never get anyone to listen to him.

But oh how Reynolds tries. He tries calling 911, and ends up talking to an operator in Ohio, who has no idea how to help him. He calls the company that employs him, and they send him through a maze of voicemails. He contacts the FBI and Homeland Security, and is constantly put on hold. He finally does get through to someone who is actually trying to find him – but he isn’t given much hope. He also gets periodic demands from his captors, who want him to get the government to give them $1 million for his life, and then to make a ransom video with his cell phone. Everyone seemingly gives him contradictory advice, and for some reason his wife isn’t answering either the home phone or her cell. But he keeps calling.

Buried is first and foremost a tense thriller, and it does that brilliantly. It plays off the audience fear of being trapped – being buried alive. Aside from a few shots that pull back farther than a camera really could to look at him trapped, the entire movie is spent in close proximity to Paul. This is perhaps the most difficult kind of role for an actor to play as he is essentially by himself, but Reynolds is surprisingly more than up to the challenge. I have at times enjoyed his work, but often feel he is trying too hard to be liked. Here, he is stripped of his good looks, which are hidden behind a face full of blood and dirt, and doesn’t try to make us like his character, but instead to share in his frustration. He is, after all, buried alive with only a few hours to live, and he is constantly put on hold, directed to voice mail and told there is nothing they can do for him.

And there is lies the other layer of the movie – the one about communication or the lack thereof in our society. Even buried alive, Paul can make phone calls and shoot video on that tiny cell phone. He can communicate with anyone in the world, and yet no one seems to be listening. They are all focuses on their jobs, and not Paul’s life (a phone call with a representative from his company is particularly heartless and cruel). But just because we have the tools to communicate, it doesn’t mean that anyone out there is actually listening to you.

There are only a few moments where the movie steps wrong. A sequence involving a snake is one of the most intense scenes in the movie – and yet no matter how well it is handled, it seems a little out of place in context to the rest of the film. The ending is a little too cruel as well for my tastes – I don’t mind a dark ending mind you, but this one seems to be toying with us simply for the sake of toying instead of because it is actually fits into the movie.

But those are minor complains. Overall, Buried is extremely effective at what it does. It is a gimmick movie – and most of those do not produce satisfying films, but this one is different. It is brilliantly handled by Reynolds, written by Chris Sparling, and director Rodrigo Cortes deserves a lot of credit for making this movie visually effective from beginning to end. This is a must see for thriller fans.

1 comment:

  1. Buried is such an intense thriller, you have got to see this one in theaters, what an experience! Ryan Reynolds is amazing! http://www.facebook.com/experienceburied