I remember when I rented BURIED, the movie about a hostage buried alive in a coffin trying to get out. I had so many questions. Oddly enough, chief among them wasn’t if he escapes or not, it was actually “Can Ryan Reynolds carry a movie while on his back the whole time”? Well, as it turns out he doesn’t have to carry it while on his back, because he’s also on his side and his stomach (insert rim shot here).
This is a hard review to do without giving away the ending, whether he’s rescued or not. So let’s focus on everything but the end of the story. Here’s trying.
Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a civilian truck driver in Iraq. The movie begins with him waking up in a coffin, buried alive after his convoy was attacked. All he has (in the beginning before he finds a bag ‘o’ stuff) is a phone, his flask with alcohol, a pen, an empty wallet and a zippo lighter. The phone is his lifeline to the outside world, including his only connection to his hostage takers, who want five million dollars or he will be left to die. Throughout the film he tries to contact his wife, Linda, but keeps getting the answering machine. He tries calling the company he works with, but they’re no help. He tries 911, which is also no help. FBI, same problem. The state department puts him in touch with a man that specializes in these situations, and is the best thing he has going to being found.
Ryan Reynolds is excellent in this film, his performance feels a bit over-the-top at times, until I thought about his situation and realized that, yes, I would be probably doing the same thing out of frustration. In fact, I have…for much more minor problems, like stubbing my toe, when I’m having trouble peeling the plastic off of a stick of string cheese. Ya know, first world problems. Reynolds delivers a fine performance with only his voice and a little bit of wiggle room. I’m reminded of John Cusack carrying 1408 on his shoulders, but he had so much room to do it in, and so physicality was an option. Reynolds doesn’t get that luxury. This movie passes or fails simply on his audible reactions. I didn’t have many doubts because I had already seen him in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, for which I did have doubts as he was previously known as ‘the funny man’. He did a smashing job in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, and so I didn’t so much fear his turn in BURIED.
The presentation is stellar as well. Great, amplified, sound design. The cinematography is great, also, for being comprised of shots strictly within a coffin (there is one absolutely gorgeous shot where the camera slowly spins around with Reynolds in center frame, as the camera pulls back up and the coffin seems to be built higher and higher as the shot just hangs. It’s a gorgeous way to get across the isolation Reynold’s character is going through). The editing (done by director Rodrigo Cortes, himself) is tight and flawless. All of these elements add up with a great minimalist score to really turn up the tension with every breath of Reynold’s character, as it could be his last.
Rodrigo Cortes, two years later, would direct a movie that apparently I was the only fan of. It was called RED LIGHTS and starred Robert De Niro, Cillian Murphy, and Sigourney Weaver (one of my favorites). A paranormal (or is it?) thriller about a group of buzzkill paranormal de-bunkers who set their sights on a well accomplished psychic (played by De Niro). Watching BURIED yesterday made me want to watch RED LIGHTS again. Not to say that BURIED isn’t good, it’s great. However, it reminded me of how enjoyable RED LIGHTS was, as well. Maybe I’ll review it soon in an I Suggest You Watch… article. Hm, back to BURIED.
Argh! It is so hard to not talk about the events that take place in the last 20 minutes of this film, except to say they’ll make your heart race and have you on the edge of your seat. I will say that this film is totally different your second time through, knowing the ending. Even though you know whether he is rescued or not, the film is still just as suspenseful and will still have you catching your breath up until the end. I was surprised by its still not only being full of tension, but that the film now worked on a whole second level, which I was very impressed by. Congrats Rodrigo Cortes, that is not an easy thing to do.
So turn the lights out, keep your feet off the floor (sounds weird now, but trust me, you’ll think me later), and prepare for a thrilling adventure within the confines of a coffin. And listen for the voice of Stephen Tobolowsky as the absolute worst person on Earth. He plays a real douchebag. When you see it, you’ll feel exactly the same way.