30 September 2010

Outside The Box- BURIED Review

Buried is one of those films that's basically sold as seen- it's about a bloke who gets buried alive. Specifically, the bloke is Paul Conroy, a contracted truck driver who wakes up six feet under in a coffin. At his disposal, he has a zippo lighter, a mobile phone and numerous other scant resources provided by his captor, but most pressingly, he has little hope of being found and rescued.

Oh, and at the very top, I'm going to say that it's an arthouse horror film that has been sold far too well. It attracted tonnes of patrons to the screening I saw- patrons who laughed at inappropriate moments, texted and browsed the internet on their phone and generally made total twats of themselves. I rarely get this kind of experience in cinemas in spite of how often I go, and I was absolutely livid when I came out of the screening. But is Buried a good film? Fuck yes.

With his debut English language feature, director Rodrigo Cortés scorches the viewer's nerves in an area no larger than seven feet by three feet. We never leave Paul's coffin for even a second of the film's 95 minutes, and the suspense never ebbs away or relents. A frankly unorthodox script by writer Chris Sparling is bolstered by his confident style, as well as the terrific musical score and, of course, the brilliant central performance.

It only occurred to me an hour or so after seeing the film that I should have been more sceptical about Buried before going in. While I try not to presume the quality or lack thereof in any film, it's 95 minutes of Ryan Reynolds in a coffin. Ryan "Van Wilder" Reynolds! Turns out I was right all along though, because Reynolds is excellent. If ever a film could have been made or broken by a single performance, it was this one. I'm flattering Reynolds to say that the Academy will totally ignore the fantastic work he does here when it comes to Oscars season, because they also ignored Sam Rockwell's dauntless performance in Moon last year.

There are other performers involved, by way of the voices that the desperate Paul hears on the phone, but it's largely all on Ryan Reynolds' shoulders. That said, I'll give kudos to casing director Stephanie Corsalini for putting Stephen Tobolowsky in that one fantastic dialogue exchange that comes late in the film. Groundhog Day's Ned Ryerson is clearly the last person you want on the other end of the phone, saying the things that he does, and it makes even this most insipid formality seem skin-crawling. It almost feels like detracting from Reynolds to say so though- it's odd that he has the most room to show off his hitherto uncelebrated acting talent inside a cramped wooden box.

Lesser films would... No, hang on, let me keep that current. Ahem. Films like Devil don't commit to a premise as bold as the one on show here. That film in particular left the elevator in which its conflict was centred, lacking the courage to even work with four more people and a few more cubic feet than Cortés and Sparling have to play with. The result was an extreme distance from most of the characters, and an inability to sympathise with them.

In Buried, you're dying to get out and get some air, but you're not bored. That the central idea is sustained for as long as 95 minutes without ever becoming stale is simply remarkable, especially as the same idea has been explored with less courage by other directors. The idea of being buried alive is surely a terrifying concept to anyone, but the only instances in which I can really think of it being explored on film are in The Vanishing, Kill Bill Volume 2 and most inauspiciously, Step Brothers. Here, the idea is mined for its full horrific potential, and it's done to eke out the most tension and suspense throughout.

Buried is a film that could have fallen down at so many hurdles, but do not mistake it for anything but an arthouse horror film. It deserves to do well, but after my experience, I would advise people to wait a week until the herd has passed it by, declared it the worst film they've ever seen on Facebook, and fucked off to see Final Destination 12. Ryan Reynolds gives the performance of a lifetime, but the film doesn't even use that as a crutch. Suspenseful, chilling and really rather brilliant.

Buried is now showing at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Buried, why not share your comments below? The complaint that annoyed me most from the arch-fuckers in the cinema on the way out? "It's an hour and a half of a bloke crying in a box." Oh readers, how I wished to bury him in the desert and see if he didn't cry...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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