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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Get Buried in Suspense


Buried = 4 out of 5 Stars

911 Operator: How did you end up in the coffin?
Paul Conroy: I have no idea.
 Buried works with what it has, and it does it very well.  What am I referring to?  This is a film that takes place entirely inside of a coffin, unfolding the desperate situation that star Ryan Reynolds is in, as he faces the task of doing everything he can get himself out of this very dire situation.  Pulling out all of the tricks to make a story set in a very confined location function at a tense level for 90 minutes, this film is a great accomplishment.
 
Reynolds stars as Paul Conroy.  Paul wakes up in a coffin buried underground, and has no idea of what to make of his initial situation (I promise to tread lightly from here).  He has a few items in his possession from the start, including his first light sources, a lighter, and a cell phone.  With the phone, Paul desperately tries to remember all the numbers he can in an effort to reach someone who can help him.  He soon also receives a call that sheds more drastic light on the situation he is in.  As the film continues, Paul must struggle to maintain his composure, as we learn more about the circumstance he is in as well as what other items (good or bad) are also in the coffin. 
 
I went into this film knowing as little as possible.  I was aware of its concept and basic details, but tried to steer myself away from any other reveals.  I remained optimistic about the idea that an independent film such as this wouldn't be so widely popular by those who had seen it at film festivals if it were just a boring movie about a man in a coffin.  As a result, it was all worth it, as the movie did a great job at constantly keeping the situation tense.
Director Rodrigo Cortes and screenwriter Chris Sparling deserve a good amount of respect for being able to craft a very minimal film that does everything possible to keep it all very cinematically engaging.  From a screenwriting standpoint, the way everything plays out occurs in ways that feel genuine, minor moments of disbelief aside.  Paul learns what he needs to at moments that warrant it, and the various moments, twists, and new developments that occur during this film make sure to keep everything engaging.  From a direction standpoint, every sort of technique is used to keep this film at a fresh looking level.  From the way Paul's light sources are handled, to the angles at which this film is shot at to maintain its sense of claustrophobia, the whole film is literally tight and tense.  Some camera shots of course have to cheat in order to convey the emotion of some scenes, let alone create an interesting dynamic throughout, but it all feels very appropriate to the film.

A huge factor would of course be Ryan Reynolds' performance in this film.  As an actor, I have certainly had to warm up to Reynolds over time, as I was never a big fan of his comedic persona.  Here, however, Reynolds work is really fantastic.  He has just the right sort of attitude that keeps his character convincing, sympathetic, with just enough other touches to create a solid character that you can't help but watch as he struggles to get out of his predicament.


As far as thrillers go, this is a wonderful addition to original films that work at a Hitchcokian level of suspense.  And now that's I've brought out the H-word, I'll continue to make note of the various ways in which this film owes a lot to the master of suspense himself.  The old school opening credits are a clear ode to Alfred H and this genre of film, reminding us that this is just a movie and despite how serious the situation is for Paul, one can't be above a stirring opening title sequence to set a nice genre-type mood.  The dialogue and plot turns in this film as well work in a fashion fitting to Hitchcock.  I mention all of this, because these factors all benefit the film.

For anyone concerned with shortcomings of this film, I'm not going to pick apart plot logic, because the film does its best, and if one wants to do so, they apparently would have wanted the really long version of this story that explains everything but would be unbearable to watch or I'd have to question why they wanted to see the film to begin with.  Instead, the only areas of this film I could put into question are where it could have shaved off some time to keep the pacing a bit tighter.  While I was thoroughly engaged throughout (and saw a bit of irony in the situation, as I sat comfortably in a nice theater as I watched a man struggle to barely move), maybe a bit of trimming could have done some good.

As stated before, this is a wildly engaging thriller.  It maintains its measured intensity throughout and stands as a great technical accomplishment as far as keeping one man in one location interesting.  A solid lead performance, an intense story that certainly builds to a solid conclusion, and a fresh take in the realm of Hitchcock-styled thrillers, this is a solid way to be trapped at the cinemas for 90 minutes.
Paul Conroy: What are you doing right now to help me!?!

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