Review: ‘Buried’-It’s my *bleep* in a box!

1 03 2011

Ryan Reynolds lays in a box in "Buried"

Ryan Reynolds is buried in a box for 90 minutes in this surprisingly entertaining thriller. Full review after the jump…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Details

Buried (2010, 94 minutes, rated R)

Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés

Written by: Chris Spalding

Starring: Ryan Reynolds and just Ryan Reynolds

The Review

Alfred Hitchcock made a movie called Lifeboat in 1944 in which the entire film was set on a boat drifting on the ocean. Four years later he directed a film called Rope that took place in a single room and attempted to show the entire 90 minute film in a single camera shot. Six years after that he built one of the most ambitious indoor sets to accommodate a movie filmed mostly from a single room looking across a courtyard in Rear Window. Hitchock loved to come up with these gimmicks, limiting himself in what he could in order to push himself further as a director. At times Rope feels way too gimmicky, and Lifeboat can get awkward, but Rear Window is a nearly perfect film that really uses the limitations as an advantage. I say all of this because Rodrigo Cortés’Buried begins with a gimmick; Ryan Reynolds has been buried alive in a small wooden coffin. Every shot of the film takes place in the box, no other actor appears on screen (with the exception of a video on a cell phone, but I don’t really count that), and I have to say that this gimmick pays off. I turned the movie on and watched about 3 minutes of blackness, just listening to Ryan Reynolds breathing and trying to find his bearings as he wakes up. Three minutes of a black screen and I knew I had to stop everything else that I was doing and just watch this movie.

The plot is simple, he was captured by a group of terrorists in Iraq and they buried him alive. To give the movie some actual action they left him with a BlackBerry and he spends a good deal of the movie on the phone talking to the terrorists, the government, and his family trying to get himself rescued. It’s an incredibly tense hour and a half. After getting through it and looking back I think the gimmick of keeping everything inside the coffin is the only way the movie works. We know exactly what Ryan Reynolds knows and by keeping every conversation so one sided we can only guess and imagine what the other people are actually doing. Instead of seeing the CIA work out a rescue plan we only hear them tell him that a plan is happening. The film builds a tense, hopeless feeling that is exactly what the main character is feeling. There is nothing he can do to help himself and he can only rely on the people on the other end of the phone call. It is such a desperate and hopeless situation that he’d be willing to do anything (including following orders from some nasty terrorists) to get himself out of there. It’s a claustrophobic intense experience, but so very entertaining.

Ryan Reynolds is great. He truly carries the entire film, obviously as he’s the only one ever on screen. But he does a great job here. In other films Reynolds tends to be a bit over the top for me (especially his comedy stuff) but he tones that down and delivers a solid dramatic performance as a very desperate man in a very desperate situation. One of the best performances of the year simply because he makes the movie work, with a lesser actor it would be hopeless, desperate, and tense in all the wrong ways. I think it has suffered by being a performance in a year with James Franco in a similarly gimmicked movie (and though I like 127 Hours more than this, their performances are pretty evenly matched, both doing very different things). Reynolds delivers and it’s great to see him doing more interesting movies (The Proposal, I’m looking at you…).

This is the first film I’ve seen by Rodrigo Cortés but he really does a great job with this one. Cortés is clearly channeling Hitchcock in the ways he sets up his gimmick and then tries to subtly break the rules. He’s very inventive in the way he shoots the film; at one point the camera pans backward far beyond the boundaries of the coffin and all we see is beyond the would be coffin walls is blackness. Really inventive stuff, and it does a great job of keeping the movie interesting.

The Verdict

This is a great thriller, one of the better ones I’ve seen in a while. I have no real need or desire to put myself through this experience again, but for the one time it was pretty fun to wach. If you can handle claustrophobic scenes and very tense drama this is a fun one. It’s not Best Picture or anything, but certainly a solidly entertaining movie.

Whose  movie is it?

Cortés does some interesting stuff with his direction here and the screenplay keeps things moving, Ryan Reynolds’ performance here is what really carries the movie. Without the solid performance everything else falls apart.

Last Word:

Go and rent this one and enjoy a fun thriller. I was entertained from start to finish and as far gimmicky movies go, this is one of the better ones.

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