Monday, October 18, 2010

Movie Review - Buried

Buried - ***

Directed by:  Rodrigo Cortes

Starring:  Ryan Reynolds

Review:  It’s possibly the worst fear that anybody could imagine.  Waking up, not knowing what happened or how you got there, but finding yourself in a coffin buried alive.  Just writing that sentence gets my heart racing a little bit and makes me a little uneasy.  That’s what ‘Buried’ does and it does it well.

This movie will find itself in the horror/suspense genre, not because of monsters or aliens or anything like that, but of the persistent nagging feeling of dread that this movie will force you to carry with you.  After seeing the first ‘Saw’ film (which was actually decent, despite the 6 poor ones to follow), I was struck with the same feeling.  Feeling trapped, with no apparent way out, not knowing how you got there and why you’re there.  That has to be a feeling as scary as any in the world.  There are lots of horrible ways to die, but if you were dying of thirst in the desert, or drowning in a river, at least you would die trying to get your way back to life, trying to save yourself, but being buried alive you would have no choice but to sit and rot.

That is the situation our hero Paul Conroy is presented with.  However, his is not quite as bleak as the one I have illustrated.  Paul is given a lighter, a cell phone, a flashlight, and a couple other valuable items one might want when confronted with this situation.  The cell phone is set in Arabic mode but Paul finds a way to call for help and we find out that he is a truck driver that was over in Iraq.  His convoy ran into an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) which is a device that insurgents will often make out of leftover explosives and place in many areas accomplish just what they did in this film.

Most of the time I imagine the result is death, but for those in which the result is not death, they get a fate much worse and are held in some way for ransom.  Paul was taken for ransom.  Given the situation, I am sure Paul would have rather died with the convoy.  Paul is contacted by his captors and told he has to make a video and send it to them so they can send it out and get a ransom for Paul.  Paul is instructed by many different sources not to make the video for fear that the hostage takers will have no choice but follow through with their threat if they don’t get their money. 

It is an interesting powerplay here.  Paul contends these people don’t really care about Paul and are just doing what they can to make themselves and the country look better.  That is true.  However, it is also clear that they are looking to make the best decision for the country as a whole, kidnapping in that area is a huge problem and if the kidnappers get what they want then the problem will only escalate from there.  For the safety of future travelers, they are trying to do what needs to be done.

However, there is a coldness at play here.  Even though these people are doing what is best in the long run, Paul is just a number, just one more hostage situation that needs to be handled.  There is nothing special about Paul, no matter how many kids he has or what life he has outside of that box, he is nothing special and that means that he has as good of a chance to be found as any other hostage, which is to say, very little.
Paul takes matters into his own hands at this point.  He makes the video and begins to try and find ways to figure out his position so that he can guide people to get there.  This involves major use of the cell phone, while constantly battling with trying to keep the battery in check to ensure he has some life when he actually needs it.  It’s a precarious situation to be sure, but one that Paul handles with much more grace under pressure than I imagine most would. 

The greatest temptation in a film like this is to use the box as the centerpoint of the film but use flashbacks and the like to flesh out the story.  It takes great discipline and a lot of guts as a filmmaker and an actor to have the entire movie take place in this box.  It also shows great skill by the director and actor to create tension and make us care about this character and this movie with nothing but him and his cell phone throughout.  It is truly is a remarkable performance by Ryan Reynolds.  As soon as you see Reynolds on screen you expect some sarcasm, comedy, and snide remarks.  It is a bit of an adjustment to get that out of your head, but after about 10 minutes you’re not worried about that anymore.  Reynolds has a solid ‘everyman’ quality that endears him to this role and makes you actually care for this character.  It is a feat for the actor and the director and, if you can stomach it, worth your time.  Not mention it’s one of the best twist endings ever.

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