2.15.2011

Buried (2010): Man in a Box



Proof that variety isn't always important to a film, Buried is one of the best one-actor, one-location films I've seen. In fact, it's pretty remarkable how engaging this film is. I've been bored in movies with epic locations, a large cast, sweeping helicopter shots, and production value in the high heavens. However, director Rodrigo Cortes and lead actor Ryan Reynolds, show us what really makes a compelling story.

Paul, a U.S. contractor in Iraq, wakes up inside of a coffin, not sure how or why he was put there.  Armed with a cell phone and a lighter, he begins a desperate hunt for clues that might help him find his way out. More and more information is revealed through phone conversations, as Paul attempts to contact friends and family, as well as the government. Battling with bureaucracies, impatient people, and inaction, he knows that time is running out.

"Broccoli for dinner was a bad idea."

Ryan Reynold's totally sells this role. We are right there with him in his frustration, gasping at the idea of being put on hold with elevator music while he's lying in a wooden box under the ground. We also sympathize with him as he loses his temper at the people on the phone, who clearly don't want to be bothered with his problem. Reynolds manages to pull of some snarky humor as well, which is much appreciated in such a dire film. 

I still can't decide who makes the movie more watchable: Reynolds or Cortes. The director manages to provide constant visual interest, despite the obvious limitations. Of course, on occasion, the camera travels outside of the confines of the coffin. However, this is only done to punctuate certain moments, such as the isolation and desperation Paul feels, as the camera pulls back to his body trapped inside a box surrounded by endless darkness. Most of the time, the camera placement communicates the stuffy, claustrophobic atmosphere extraordinarily well. Additionally, cinematographer Eduard Grau provides interest through lens variation and changes in color. 
 
"The rave should be around here somewhere."

Another credit must be given to the writer, Chris Sparling. Sparling squeezes character development, subtext, and intrigue out of every phone conversation. It's no easy task to tell a story through a cell phone. Yet, one of my complaints about the story also comes from the script. In the trailers, the film is sold as one that takes several twists and turns. This isn't really the case. It's actually more straightforward. I think Sparling could have taken advantage of Paul's mistrust of the government more. There are moments where Paul asks questions that make you think something more complex is occurring, but this never fully materializes. In the end, he's just a dude that was randomly put in a box for ransom.

***SPOILERS***
My other major point of contention is the film's conclusion. Staying true to the one-location concept, we never end up leaving the coffin. And of course, that means Paul never makes it out either. While his final conversation with his wife is heartbreaking, it all feels too senseless. Yes, a real world exists, I know. I understand that most violence is rather senseless and that the good guy doesn't always survive. However, I felt cheated. His death doesn't add anything to the themes of the story; it only pissed me off and made me wonder why I watched the movie to begin with. I don't want to see a movie about a guy buried alive who doesn't make it out; I want to see the incredible story of a guy buried alive who uses every resource at his disposal to find a way out. That's the interesting story ...to me at least.
***END SPOILERS***

I've had nightmares that start this way.

I do recommend Buried, even if I have a few issues with the story and the ending. It's a unique film, with a genius low-budget concept. It's also a good lesson for any filmmaker to see how little is needed to tell an engaging tale. 

5 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this movie, very claustrophobic, always rooting for Paul. I had to watch it with a bottle of oxygen by my side :)

    Great blog you have here
    Cheers

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  2. Thanks for the informative review, I've had my eye on this one for a while because I appreciate a director who can do an interesting film within such a confined space...should be interesting. The idea is so damn claustrophobic!

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  3. "However, I felt cheated. His death doesn't add anything to the themes of the story; it only pissed me off and made me wonder why I watched the movie to begin with. I don't want to see a movie about a guy buried alive who doesn't make it out; I want to see the incredible story of a guy buried alive who uses every resource at his disposal to find a way out.

    Unfortunately, I agreed all too much with you about THIS specific part of the review; the ending ruined the movie for me because I felt like I'd spent the last hour and a half being depressed and demoralized for nothing. :\ I love grim endings in the right context but this was all too realistic and as such, I could get the same effect from reading the news. Not my ultimate idea of escapism.

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  4. I have Buried coming on Netflix soon. Good to read up on it first!

    I have a brand new blog about horror movies, thriller TV shows and even a little Heavy Metal music... you know, the Darkside of life! :)

    I could use some feedback!

    Alice
    Desolation Den

    ReplyDelete
  5. My wife and I just recently watched this. I was intrigued that someone would shoot a whole movie with a man buried in a box and she was intrigued because she loves Ryan Reynolds.

    I found it entertaining and a decent movie...you posted a great review!


    The Mothman
    http://tooscary2watch.blogspot.com

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