Buried, 2010, Spain/US, 95 mins. Directed by Rodrigo Cortés.
Here’s something I think about when I’m having one of my less cheerful days – why would anything good ever happen? On the basis of events past, present and predictable, why would it? I mean, look at the mounting evidence:
- Exhibit A. 2016, all of it
- Exhibit B. A sentient, sexist tomato just got inaugermentated as President of the US
- Exhibit C. We’ve all got work on Monday, haven’t we
Nuts to the lot of it. Buried, then, was actually the perfect perspective-giver. I mean, the main character of the movie would have to live with these things, too. But then, he’s also trapped in a box, but I’m not. What I’m saying is, I have times when I forget myself. Then I scramble back onto my white-male-first-world-English-speaking horse and carry on!
Buried buries Ryan Reynolds alive. This was before The Green Lantern was made, so it’s undeserved. He’s five foot underground in a wooden coffin, with only a handful of tools, the most important being a cellphone. The film plays out more or less in real-time for its 90-plus minutes. The setup sounds impossibly simple to fill all that time with, and the film-makers must have realised that too, because the amount of Bad Things and Suffering they chose to pack into it is pretty impressive!
Here’s why Buried works. You know, within the first two minutes, this film can end in only two ways:
a) the guy escapes
b) the guy dies
You know this, the film knows you know it, and is now free to spend the rest of the time making you as uncomfortable as possible, and it doesn’t squander it. Reynolds is the only character you see face-to-face (and a LOT of face at that, this coffin isn’t very roomy, so get used to close-ups of his sweating, dirty, strong jawline accentuated by just the right amount of scruff). All of the film’s interactions are carried out over mobile phone, and I must say there’s some good vocal performances to be heard here. This is high watermark for literally phoning in a performance, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
THING TO WATCH FOR
No spoilers, but the film does seem to take an almost sadistic glee in escalating the situation. As a point of reference to measure that by, a sequence in which our hero has to basically fight off a snake with a Zippo lighter while in a wooden coffin he can barely move in is, relatively, the least of his problems.
By virtue of having a single setting, the film has a lot of room to completely explore it. Some nicely realistic lighting from a variety of difference sources (phone backlight, lighter, some sort of heavy-duty glowstick that has a portable power source?? what is that hmu) locks the claustrophobia in nicely. Also, the film somehow manages to run a thriller gamut from survival-horror suspense moments to heart-pounding action sequences while still in one box. Top marks, lads! By which I mean probably like 8 or 9 out of 10 I dunno
Further: look up the posters to this one. There’s more than one really good one besides the one I’ve sabotaged above.