' ' Cinema Romantico: Buried

Monday, September 27, 2010


The screen is black and then the sound of heavy breathing fades in and then light comes up - kinda - on Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American truck driver in Iraq who is buried alive in a wooden coffin somewhere in the desert. There is no set-up, no gettin' to know you time; nope, we're not in a coffin and then we are in a coffin and we will remain there for the entirety of the film's 94 minute running time. That is, a wooden coffin. Nowhere else.

Paul has a cellphone and a ligher for reasons which will be revealed - namely, that his truck convoy was attacked by terrorists or by insurgents and now they want a certain amount of money paid by a certain time or they will leave Paul to rot. Frantically, he makes call after call, all with varying degrees of success. But always remember that America does not negotiate with terrorists and not even if you're buried alive in a wooden coffin in the desert which seems to suggest that then perhaps the terrorists have won but never mind.

Director Rodrigo Cortes, working from a script by Chris Marling, does a noble job keeping things moving at considerable clip, re-upping the stakes at necessary intervals, and, by my count, including only one passage of forced action, and even then it directly involves my singular most paralyzing fear (think: Indiana Jones) and so I was too busy trying to avert my eyes and not throw up to notice it was forced until afterwards.  He also admirably keeps the shots unstagnant, or as unstagnant as possible, without ever cheating, without ever including cut-aways to the outside world or reactions of the people Paul talks with on the phone.

Of course, if a film rests on the face and on the personality of one actor and nothing else than it is imperative that this actor deliver.  Confession: I have never been a Ryan Reynolds fan.  It's not that I actively dislike him, not at all, it's merely that he has never intrigued me onscreen with his thespianism.  He so often seems to be playing below his age.  This worked better than usual in his "Adventureland" role as an eternal man-boy but in a project like, say, "Definitely, Maybe" where he is supposed to be a high-powered father I found myself decidedly unimpressed and left to believe the daughter more or less ran that household.  But in "Buried", with everything else stripped away, he rises to the challenge and provides a performance that is not so much nuanced as it is electric.  He veers wildly from calm to freak-out, from working-this-through to I-give-up, much like a person buried alive in a wooden coffin in the desert very well might.  Let's not vault him up into the ranks of the A-listers but let's commend him.

And more than anything that is what I'd like to do for this entire project - commend it.  It wouldn't be any good if the movie itself wasn't good, but it is good, an intense ride that really isn't a statement against a war, just a well made flick, that, above all else, takes a chance.  Love it, hate it, indifferent to it, you gotta respect it.  In fact, if I were asked to create a one sentence promo for the poster I would steal a particular word from the esteemed Jon Stewart and write this:

"Buried" is the most ballsalicious movie of the year.


Wretched Genius said...

Reynold's is better than people give him credit for. But he usually chooses such terrible projects that it's understandable why most people don't notice he's actually talented. If you ever have space in your Netflix queue, try checking out his performance in The Nines, John August's overlooked directorial debut.

Castor said...

Really looking forward to this and your review only increases my anticipation for it! :)