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Buried

Submitted by admin on October 11, 2010 – 10:26 pmNo Comment
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If there’s a lesson to be learned from Buried it’s that you cannot judge a film by its advertising. Here are some of the December films that have media ad budgets in excess of $50-million: The Tourist, Tron, True Grit. By contrast the money spent promoting awareness for Buried, currently playing at the Edwards Grand Palace and released by Lionsgate, could be found in a hobo’s wallet.

After watching Buried I walked into an adjoining theater and watched several minutes of The Social Network. There were over 50 people in the theater at late afternoon. When I saw Buried a couple of hours earlier I was the only one in the theater.

Buried is a film with a gimmick. Despite the fact that it has a single actor, Ryan Reynolds, there are actually some recognizable actors providing voice talent, voices we hear on a cell phone. Reynolds is a civilian contract driver in Iraq who’s been kidnapped by insurgents. The audience experiences black screen at the beginning and then as a Zippo lighter provides illumination we realize that Reynolds is confined in a wooden pine coffin. The entire movie takes place in said coffin.

The conceit of an entire narrative unwinding in a single setting suggests saving money on the production and subjecting the audience to a claustrophobic state of mind. When you confine the action and conflict you have to resort to things like the monologue. Take films like Lebanon (Sony Pictures Classics) that takes place entirely inside an army tank. Of course we have the scene where one soldier reminisces about a loved one. Or maybe, World Trade Center, the Oliver Stone film, which while not entirely taking place on one set does have a claustrophobic feel. Such narratives also have the scene where the protag thinks he’s being rescued, but it turns out to be a fever dream.

In Buried Reynolds shows his ability as an actor. Think about it, there’s no silly maneuver the actor can reply on that requires open space. He’s confined to a small box. Many times during Buried we go to black or using a flashlight or cell phone light, both objects that have been left inside the coffin by Reynold’s kidnappers, we see an almost monochromatic color scheme. Reynold’s moves the plot by telephoning everyone from his employer to his wife to his mother in law, to taking calls from the kidnapper. For want of a better term the insurgents are not so much terrorists as they are criminals, teasing Reynolds with their sudden calls and forcing him to make a cell phone video of his captor’s ransom demands. Sand is leaking into the buried coffin and time’s running out.

Buried had me on the edge of my seat all the way through. I believed the acting and the situation and many times the movie was emotionally devastating, mainly due to Reynolds in what must be one of his most solid performances. Director Rodrigo Cortes expands the horizons despite the small space. Sometimes the walls of coffin seem to expand to heaven and sometimes they crack open with the weight of sand and reptiles.

- Michael Bergeron

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