Friday, November 5, 2010
Has anyone else ever had the idea of setting an entire movie inside a coffin? Ever since I saw Uma Thurman punching her way to freedom from her casket in Kill Bill Volume 2 I knew that someone would have to eventually subject an audience to such a claustrophobic scenario (the excellent Dutch film Spoorloos plays on this fear as well). So congratulations to director Rodrigo Cortes for actually having the balls to do it.
The problem with Buried is that once the initial admiration wears off, we aren't left with much. Ryan Reynolds plays civilian contractor Paul Conroy,who was a truck driver in Iraq until he came under enemy fire. He then has the misfortune of being imprisoned in a coffin and used as a hostage to extort money from the U.S government. Reynold's starts the movie with some convincing panting, screaming, and general helplessness, and then starts to make some calls with the cell phone left with him. All of this is filmed up close with the aid of the blue glare of the phone and the warmer flame of Conroy's zippo lighter. The novelty is intriguing, but even at it's best, the result isn't quite as uncomfortable as one might expect.
The story doesn't get much better from there; we're entertained by a fast moving plot, but it all seems a little artificial. Conroy deals with Dan Brenner, who is the head of some sort of hostage finding squad, and their conversations are supposed to reveal something about the futility of the war in Iraq. In reality, the political discussion is more anemic than insightful; "I didn't expect it would be like this" says Conroy."I don't think any of us did" replies Dan. Cortes also feels the need to apply plenty of distractions, whether it's the sweeping music that would suit some panoramic helicopter shots of the windswept desert, or a snake that enters the coffin and starts crawling down Conroy's pant leg. Clearly if anyone wasn't feeling claustrophobic, menacing reptiles would put them over the edge. If that doesn't work there's also some self mutilation with a pocket knife.
Still, I'll give credit where credit's due. The movie had its share of suspense--the director is apparently a huge fan of Hitchcock-- and held my attention for 90 minutes. The strong anti-war stance is bold and so is the decision to keep the camera enclosed with Conroy (there are no flashbacks). But in the end, it's just mindless escapism--even if that's the last thing the director had in mind.