Friday, January 07, 2011


Definitely the most claustrophobic film ever made.

What would you do if you suddenly woke up trapped in a wooden box the size of a large coffin and your last memory was an armed ambush in the middle of the Iraqi desert?

What if all you had with you was a mobile phone, a zipper, a knife and a pencil and you knew that precious oxygen was running out? And wouldn't you just lose it altogether if, on top of choking from lack of air, you also had to deal with the most infuriatingly inept BT-style receptionists as you're desperately trying to get through to various government agencies?

Buried deserves at least three awards.

Originality, to start with. I don't know about you, but I've never heard of a film set entirely inside a coffin and with total continuity from start to finish. For one hour and a half, the viewers are pinned to their seat as truck driver Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds, the one and only actor in the film) is working against the clock trying to conjure up ways of getting out of his box alive. The script, courtesy of Chris Sparling, is simply genius.

Yes, the cynic may have a field day arguing that "why didn't he phone this and that instead", "why was he wasting so much oxygen" and "if only he'd tried to push that lid a bit harder", but the fact is Buried is one of those few films where, at the same time, you don't want to blink in case you miss a precious detail, but you also don't want to watch as suspense levels spiral out of control.

Which is why Buried would also net a second award for camera work. It's brave, in the era of the dwindling attention span, to decide to bet on a film based on limited spacing (to say the least), where the brightest bit is the flickering of a torch and the widest camera shot is from the protagonist's feet.

If you think there are so many yawn-inducing thrillers out there with millions invested on special effects, monsters and assorted camera tricks. Buried instead will feel like a pressure cooker from start to finish and will make you jump and give you sweaty palms by means of the simplest and most claustrophobic of settings. Which is why you'll hear of young Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes again, no doubt.

None of the above would have been possible, however, without Ryan Reynolds' spectacular performance. Which is where the third and most important award should go. It's not every day you hear of films that are 100% centred around one person and one person alone.

And yet, Reynolds pulls it off without a glitch. The way he conveys, in succession, panic, fury, despair, helplessness and the awareness that life is just slipping out of his hands is just timeless.

Ultimately, Buried offers a slightly different perspective on the Iraq war. While a vast array of films has already portrayed the military side of things and the point of view of both Western soldiers and the Iraqis, the work of many working class civilians and contractors in the backdrop is often overlooked.

"I didn't know it was going to be like this over here", sighs Paul while on the phone to the hostage rescue team. "No-one's going to pay five million dollars for me".

And he's not kidding.


Jackart said...

Added to the LoveFilm list. Thanks!

socialist sam said...

This is the sort of uncritical reactionary crap that makes me want to retch. The Iraq war was one of the greatest human crimes of the last 300 years and all you can say is cheer a piece of cinema that treats it like a sanitised version of Saw?

Emma said...

Sam, for the love of God, grow up.

IT'S A FILM REVIEW, not a Marxist manifesto.

Maybe you should start your own blog so you can write the most perfect, self righteous, right on posts?

I was going to start debating with you about the semantics of this film, and how the Iraq war really is a very small part of it, but I know that trying to discuss things with you is futile.

Sam, we get it. You're more left wing than everyone. Well done. Now move on.