johnlink ranks BURIED (2010)

This movie is an hour and a half of Ryan Reynolds trapped in a box at the whim of his captor (this is also a standard dream of women all over the world). Played for suspense and terror, this is a one-location flick in the genre of PHONE BOOTH or 127 HOURS. But, unlike those movies, BURIED does not cheat. This really is just an hour and a half where we see nobody but the subject.

I watched BURIED (2010) on 7.3.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

It’s pretty hard to talk about this movie without spoiling it, but I’m going to do my best here. The ending is certainly unique, certainly a major talking point. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of how this ends. I understand why it makes the choices it does, I understand the theme the film is pushing, and it makes sense in that context. I’m just not sure I liked what they did.

Reynolds plays Paul, a truck driver in Iraq captured by someone who wants money in exchange for his location. He wakes up in a coffin, buried somewhere in the desert. He does have a cell phone, a little pocket knife, a canteen filled with alcohol, and a couple of sources of light. The film establishes all of this fairly quickly and gets itself going.

The desperation Reynolds portrays feels genuine. The moments of his terror are frightening, visceral. The script, however, sometimes asks him to do some odd things. The thrust of this film is that it intends to portray a realistic account of what a man buried alive would do. Because we see his every move and hear his every conversation the script needs to be perfect. It doesn’t quite get there, though the 45 minutes of act two of this film are pretty nearly perfect. My problem is in the setup and in the resolution.

It is impossible to not play the ‘What would I do’ game while experiencing this film. My first thought is getting someone in authority to start working on locating my position. Instead, Paul consistently gives up on conversations rather than pressing forward. Sometimes he calls 411 for a number, but sometimes (because the script feels the need to change things up) he calls someone else, even if that someone else is someone acting with hostility towards him.

I really like that we slowly learn about Paul, about his life. There is no title crawl, no voice over, no flashback. Everything we know and learn comes from the hour and a half we hear him talking. I was impressed with how the script managed to not have him repeat his story a hundred times to different people. That’s a tough challenge for a film of this sort, and when the script gets it right the result is that you don’t even notice it. I often complain about repetition in films of this sort, and BURIED avoids it (though the results of doing so are the aforementioned tangential phone calls).

We learn pretty quickly that the government and company trying to find him are much more concerned with public relations than with Paul’s life. The voices on the other end only really get upset when Paul considers contacting the media, or doing something which will make the situation go public. Paul is not a soldier. He is a truck driver with no real agenda. He is, clearly, acceptable collateral damage to both his employer and his country. There is a phone call with his employer in the last section of this film which is infuriating in both content and presentation. How long Reynolds puts up with the conversation (and properly answers all the questions asked without flipping out) feels less than genuine. But, thematically speaking, this is a film with a thesis and there are a couple of moments which are more concerned with that thesis than with reality.

For its high concept and large ideas, this is a film which would fall apart under poor direction. Rodrigo Cortes is up to the task. Several coffins were built for this movie, and Cortes sneaks a camera into every crevice, continually making the shots feel new, even as they all work towards building a serious sense of claustrophobia. Some of the shots constructed between the films beats, as one movement of the script is about to transition into another, are particular effective. A coffin with walls which must have been thirty feet high was constructed, with Reynolds at the bottom. The camera pulls up and up and up, obviously breaking reality to give a sense of what the coffin must feel like in Paul’s head at that moment. It induces a real sense of dread which, of course, is the point.

The pacing of this film is snappy and it certainly holds attention more than you might think it would. The ending doesn’t totally ruin the movie for me, but it approaches that line. The acting is very good from Reynolds and the major voices on the other end of the line, though a few of the minor characters sound as though they recorded their parts separately. Some of those characters feel disjointed from our end of the line. The film looks good, stays fresh, and has some points to make. I like all aspects of this movie except, I must say, its script. Some nice dialogue, some nice moments, some nice disguising of coincidence. But I just don’t agree with what it feels it has to say.

Certainly worth a watch, though. The good aspects vastly outweigh the bad in BURIED.

FILMS

FILM: 7; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 4

7+8+7+4+0=26

FINAL SCORE: 6.5

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~ by johnlink00 on July 4, 2012.

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