Last week, I praised Exam for managing to stay an engaging, one-room thriller for ninety minutes without ever resorting to flashbacks, hallucinations, or dream sequences. Tonight, I watched Buried, a film that is literally ninety-five minutes of Ryan Reynolds, and only Ryan Reynolds, trying to escape from a coffin.
Sorry, Exam, but I think you’ve been one-upped.
I first heard about Buried maybe a year and a half ago, and I was intrigued . . . but also pretty convinced that it wouldn’t work. Sure, the basic plot line sounds simple . . . a truckdriver (Reynolds) working in Iraq gets abducted and buried in a coffin with only a few objects that he can use to try and escape, namely a cell phone, a lighter, and a knife . . . but how do you make that interesting for ninety minutes? Even Quentin Tarantino’s two hour CSI episode, “Grave Danger,” couldn’t stay focused on Nick in a coffin the entire time, and that was an excellent episode. I wanted to like Buried, but I didn’t really think I would.
Occasionally, it’s kind of cool to be wrong.
1.) I’ve liked Ryan Reynolds for awhile. I mean, he’s pretty. He’s pretty and funny and tall and Canadian. You know, what’s not to like, right?
But I also think he’s a good actor, and I’ve been interested in him since I watched X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Despite not liking that movie a great deal, I enjoyed his small role as Deadpool . . . he was much more contained than I expected, a different kind of snarky than he usually plays. So I was hoping to like him in Buried, too, since he pretty much has to carry the entire damn movie.
And he does. Ryan Reynolds is solid here, delivering a performance easily worthy of an Oscar nod, not that he’ll get one. He gives the full spectrum, man: panic, anger, frustration, sorrow, acceptance, hope. One of his best scenes, I think, is when he calls his mother who lives at a nursing home. There’s a quietness to Reynolds’s delivery; it’s simple, and it’s heartbreaking.
2.) I have sort of a weird claustrophobia that has more to do with pressure and being crushed than it has to do with small spaces. Despite being very invested in Paul’s survival, I didn’t feel terribly closed-in or panicked while watching Buried . . . until a scene very near the end, and then oh . . . my . . . god. My adrenaline, like, flooded.
3.) Poor Stephen Tobolowsky. Even when you can’t see him, he gets cast as the insurance guy. That must suck. Also, his character? Wow, people. Talk about shitweasel of the century.
4.) There are a few different people throughout the film that Paul talks to, most of them for no longer than a couple of minutes. The most important character is Dan, a guy whose job is pretty much talking hostages through situations like this. (Lousy job.) Dan’s played by Robert Paterson, who I’ve never heard of, but for a dude that you never actually see, I thought that he did some nice acting work too.
5.) Finally, my only real problem with this movie is that I didn’t care for all of the camerawork. Most of it was great. Certain shots, in fact, were spectacular and really gave you the feeling of how small that box really was. However, there were a couple of zoom ins and outs that I found a little too showy. Actually, one of the zoom outs was kind of cool, but then they did the exact same thing like two more times, and it became too much. It’s kind of a nitpick, but these techniques did detract from the very real tension in this movie.
Of course, what I really want to talk about is the end, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, stop reading and go rent it. It’s definitely worth your time. For those of you have seen Buried, carry on.
Here’s the piece of advice that I, unfortunately, couldn’t give to those who didn’t want to be spoiled: pick out something happy and quite possibly fuzzy to watch immediately after seeing Buried. Because Paul? He bites the big one.
Yeah, I was kind of depressed.
So after making a ransom video to try and save his co-worker’s life (it doesn’t work) and after cutting off his own fucking finger to try and save his own, Paul receives a call from Dan that they have his location. This is good news, since dirt is pouring into the coffin and he’s pretty damn close to drowning in it. Paul finally gets a hold of his wife (Samantha Mathis) to tell her that he loves her and that he’s coming home . . . he’s on the phone with Dan, listening to them digging up his coffin . . . he’s so, so close, the men above him racing to dig Paul out before he can be suffocated to death . . .
. . . and then they pull a Silence of the Lambs on us because Dan and co aren’t digging up Paul’s coffin at all; they’re digging up Mark White’s. And who the fuck is Mark White, you might ask? Well, he’s the guy that Dan swore he already rescued a few weeks ago. And what does that make Dan? A lying liar who lies. Excuse me, a sorry lying liar who lies. As the dirt completely fills the coffin and everything goes black, Dan gets the last lines in the film: “I’m sorry, Paul. I’m so sorry.”
So, Jesus. Good movie, but I need a fucking Disney film, like, now please.
Clearly, Buried isn’t the kind of movie I’m going to be watching on a monthly basis. But it is an extremely well-made film, and it deserves every bit of critical praise that it’s gotten so far. It was a really ambitious project, and man, did it deliver.
Still. Kind of need some baby animals, here.
There. That’s better.
Tentative Grade: A- (But it will probably go up to an A in time.)
Moral: Don’t work in freaking Iraq.