Paul is a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin. With only a lighter and a cell phone it’s a race against time to escape this claustrophobic death trap.
A hale & hearty hello to all of my followers on this second evening of the Harvest Moon. It’s getting close to The Black Saint’s favorite time of year…& to reward myself I took in a private screening this evening of a film I initially had no interest in at all. But it was free & nowadays just about anything free is worth looking into…get your minds out of the gutters acolytes!! But if you’re down there look for loose change & send it to me….
The film in question is Rodrigo Cortes’ “Buried” & I myself am pretty confident in saying that not only was I mesmerized by what was happening on the screen, I’m of the opinion that “Buried” is the best film of the year so far. Fuck You “Inception”!!
“Buried” is in fact the best film Hitchcock never made. The plot? Paul Conroy (who works driving supply trucks in Iraq) wakes up after an attack by a group of insurgents to find himself buried alive in a coffin. The only items on his person are a lighter, pencil & a cell phone. He doesn’t have much time before the air runs out. But why him? And will he survive long enough to be rescued?
Paul is played by Ryan Reynolds who has never really appealed to me as an actor before but then again he never played a role like this before & I’m already calling to the Academy to be sure his name is listed in the “Best Actor” category next February. He carries the entire film, he IS the entire film. It takes place in the coffin & nowhere else. There are other actors in the film but they are heard & not seen except for one & that’s only for 5 seconds tops.
The film opens in total darkness & silence. As a matter of fact the group I saw it with thought something was wrong with the projection system until maybe 3-4 minutes in…you hear breathing & then the sound of movement. Paul is awakening to a nightmare beyond his comprehension. But still, nothing on the screen for a few minutes more. Some members of the audience twittered nervously to themselves as they waited for something to show up on the screen. The tension in these first few minutes is nearly heart-stopping because of our inherent fear of the dark. We can hear Paul..but we can’t see Paul. And in fact until he finds a lighter in his pants & turns it on I think the audience was in fear for what would appear on screen when the light finally appeared.
What we see is Mr. Reynolds covered in dirt & blood, gagged with his hands tied in front of him. He manages to cut the ties that bind him on the end of a nail that is jutting out from the side of the box. He then spits out the gag & yells at the top of his lungs…HEY…HEY!!! Of course to no avail. He gathers himself & tries to explore his space. The box is about 6 1/2 feet long and about 3 feet wide. A coffin. A coffin buried somewhere under the sand in Iraq where nobody knows where he is except the people who put him there.
After realizing his situation is pretty much hopeless he hears a telephone ring from inside & once he recovers it, sees that all the words on the screen are written in Farsi. He doesn’t understand anything on it & answers it to late to find out who called. But he realizes that he can get a signal & makes some calls to the outside world looking for help.
“Buried” is brilliant because from the moment he discovers “Fire” (Light) we become his character. We are Paul & our minds are racing as fast as his is trying to figure a way out of his predicament. The Cinematography by Eduard Grau is masterful considering he had only 3 light sources to work with (Lighter, Cell Phone & a Surprise one found later in the film). Director Rodrigo Cortes’ eye for visuals demands attention as well. There is one scene where Paul is really feeling like all is lost & the camera pans up from a full length shot of him and the walls of the coffin rise up with the camera. It reminded me of a shot Tim Burton might have pulled off if he was making this movie but more importantly it gave the audience the sense of hopelessness Paul is feeling. He’s trapped in a bottomless pit but he’s at the bottom of it anyway. And the surface seems so far away…..
Again I have to refer to Ryan Reynolds performance in the film. Every time I see the guy he’s either a wiseass or a superhero or a wiseass superhero. Here he’s just a ordinary man placed into an extraordinary situation by powers beyond his control & he nails it. I would imagine I would react as he did initially…terror, panic (Oh wait a minute, not me. You). Then there would be moments where he would have to be resourceful. And then there are moments when he would have to be just plain angry (some of the phone conversations are hilarious actually). But I saw these varied emotions as not only true to the character but true to anyone placed in that situation. The character does what I believe any of us (sans me) would do in that situation and that makes the film so much more real as you watch it. You ache when he aches & you brighten up on the few occasions he does.
The music was also a manic contortion of Bernard Herrman & Middle Eastern music set to panic mode for most of the movie when there is music. I wish I could remember who was responsible for the score but it escapes me right now.
Chris Sparling’s script is brilliant in it’s simplicity & the fact that he runs us through an emotional gamut all in the space of a six foot box. Rodrigo Cortes’ camera angles fly all over the confined space & he gives all of the camera moves he can think of…slow pans, fast ones, zoom shots, etc..all in the space of a coffin sized box. A truly inspiring achievement.
The other actors whose voices you hear are fairly well known ones. Stephen “Groundhog Day” Tobolowsky, Samantha “The New Daughter” Mathis & Erik “Deadly Honeymoon” Palladino among others. But hey are just voices in the ephemera to Paul & to us. Voices that appear & disappear in & out of the small space Paul finds himself in.
There is a sort of “Twilight Zone”-ish twist in the end & it was perfectly orchestrated And worked on not just an emotional level but a visceral one as well. It really kicked all of us in the ass. That hasn’t happened to me at the movies in ages. So it goes without saying that the majority of you will probably react the same way we did. There will be those nit-pickers (I hate em’) who’ll ask “How come the lighter didn’t run out of fuel sooner”? or “Why did his air last so long”? Because it’s a 90 minute movie you f*cking morons! The rules of film state that certain plot devices that don’t make sense have to be included to make the movie. Period. End of story. Those little nit-picks aside, the film worked for me as a suspense thriller, An action movie (You’ll know what I mean when you see it) & most importantly a horror movie. Although some nice quiet time in a coffin is fine for me here in the Mausoleum I call home, I’m pretty sure it would add up to sheer terror for the rest of you. Especially if you’re claustrophobic…hoo boy you’re not gonna have a good time watching this if you’re a claustrophobe.
But that would be your loss. As it stands “Buried” is the best film I’ve seen this year (so far) & you would be doing yourself a great disservice if you let it slip you by. Four 1/2 out of five shrouds from me (No film is perfect). And as I said earlier, recognition from the academy is warranted for next February in multiple categories. It’s really that good people. Don’t miss it.