Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Buried and Having No Escape: A Movie Review

Director: Rodrigo Cortes.

Writer: Chris Sparling.

Buried starring Ryan Reynolds saw a limited theatrical release in late 2010. Now this psychological thriller is on DVD and Blu-Ray thanks to Lionsgate Home Entertainment (January 2011). This is a claustrophobic film, in which a truck driving contractor is held hostage below ground after an ambush. In a coffin, Paul Conroy (Reynolds) uses his last, trapped moments to call loved ones and to ask for help. However, the government's record of rescuing two out of dozens of hostages and continued apathy does not bode well for Paul.

The central and only visible character during the entire film is Paul. Buried starts with a black screen, much like this character's experience. When the lights come on the true horror starts, as Paul's predicament becomes obvious to viewers. Trapped in a 2' x 7' coffin Paul must face the multiple threats of expiring oxygen, the possibility of fire and looming burial by a steady build-up of sand.

There seems to be a running theme in the picture of apathy. The State Department does not seem to care about Paul's circumstance and his paymasters have written him off, to absolve themselves of any responsibility for his outcome. Paul screams into his phone and only lifeline: "do you care?" Unfortunately, few seem sincere in their regard for him or his tragedy. Only one ray of hope breaks through human selfishness and that is from his family, thousands of miles away. They are powerless to intervene. No one can save Paul, except for himself.

Buried is really a compelling film for helping the viewer identify with the main protagonist. What the viewer sees so does Paul. Yet, the film never drains on the attention despite the confines of the setting, character and time period, none of which really change. Filmmakers Rodrigo Cortes and Chris Sparling entrap the watcher much like Paul and your only way out of the box is to watch what happens next. This is a helpless feeling, but so is being ransomed by an uncompromising and faceless Iraqi insurgent.

There is a reason that Buried has received so much attention and praise; this is a thrilling film from start to finish. The many dramatic flourishes, which will not be divulged here, raise the stakes, while drawing you in to care about Paul and his potential escape. All other characters seem villainous in comparison to Paul. While the ending is not satisfying, Buried will keep you on the edge of your seat enjoying Reynolds strong performance as the struggling victim, Paul.

Writing/story/editing: 8 (uses Aristotles 3 unities of tragedy, tense).
Acting/believability/characterization: 8.25 (strong performance from Ryan Reynolds).

Overall: 8.12 (enjoyable, but constantly tense).

Another strong review of Buried at DVD Talk (Jason Bailey):

Buried Reviewed at DVD Talk

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