Those of you who read these reviews regularly or have talked to me in general will remember my mantra about a well executed movie – keep it simple, high quality and differentiated where possible. Well Rodrigo Cortés’ newest picture “Buried” couldn’t possibly question the very same idea any.
Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up in most people’s worst nightmare, buried in a coffin below the ground with little more than a zippo and arabic cellphone for company. A truck driver working on contract for the US military during the rebuilding of Iraq, his convoy was attacked by IED and this is the first thing he can remember after falling unconscious. The one number in the phone leads him to his captors, a group of destitute locals doing what they have to survive (and requesting $5 million for their troubles).
Such an idea has been examined on tv and in film before but never to the same extent, Reynolds essentially the only cast member to appear on-screen throughout the entire running-time. The smallness of scale and claustrophobia ample ground for examination but the possibility of engaging an audience for any length of time completely within a 6 foot box and no nature light proving to be the bane of anyone else. Within seconds of the opening however, the dark screen followed by hollowed breathing and cries of help announces that even where content is light, the suspense will never cease, even momentarily.
Punctuated by a vastly dark humour, Reynolds exerts the kind of leading man persona that immediately attracts the camera to him whilst also utilizing his personal strengths. Acting with every ounce of his body, the usually mainstream favourite proves he can emote with the simplest of acts and in such a way as to tell us more than dialogue ever could.
More so, these ebbs in time never fully distract from the situation he is in, instead adding a lightness of tone that could otherwise lay as heavily upon the viewer as it does himself. Cortés tries a similar technique, employing artificial longshots and tricks of perspective to highlight certain intensities that arise as well as to mask a momentary break. Although beautiful, it unnecessarily distances us from Conroy and often lacks impact. Despite the nobleness of preempting audience fatigue, it doesn’t sit perfectly with the overall feel of the movie.
Chris Sparling’s script illustrates his own bright future and depth of ability yet it must be pointed out that conventions do seep in, proving that even the greatest amongst us will fall back upon devices that could have been used more originally in time or in construction. There is a difference between simplicity and familiar and often times the latter wins out over originality. Also the cruelty inflicted upon Conroy by parties other than his ransomers lends itself to being too heavily pressed at times, its editing not nearly as concise as the overall picture.
The ending blends both the expected and otherwise into a slyly apt nod to independent cinema’s sensibilities without overtly alienating a mainstream audience. With limited potential outcomes it is amazing Sparling remembered here was not the time for empty platitudes.
Shrewd and ultimately entertaining, the otherwise negligible issues with story and techniques are overcome by a witty and cleverly edited piece that certainly outperforms most recent hollywood endeavours.