What’s going on right now?
Paul (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up in a wooden box. He was driving a truck in a convoy when an IED went off, he got hit by a rock, and things went blank. He’s buried and he doesn’t know where or by whom. He’s got a cell phone, a lighter, a flask, and his anxiety pills. Now what?
That’s Buried (2010). Directed by Rodrigo Cortés (who has a movie called Red Lights coming out March 2 that has the pedigree to be good) and written by Chris Sparling. We spend an hour and a half in a box with what can only be described as minimal lighting. There’s Phone Booth (2002) claustrophobia and then there’s a man-sized box. I don’t think we can limit the action to any smaller a region. Maybe if we buried a cat or something in a cat-sized box, that would technically be smaller, but I doubt it would garner as much sympathy as Reynolds does.
Movies like this and Chronicle (2012) make me wonder about dialogue and writing dialogue. Did someone write down all the “Come on”s that Paul says when trying to calm himself down? How much is written, how much is ad libbed, and who gets the credit? Some parts are clearly scripted, but unlike Chronicle, these aren’t the worst parts of the movie. In fact, some of it is absolutely hilarious or absolutely heartbreaking. One part, from the head of personnel at Paul’s company, borders on the manipulative (that is, manipulating the audience) and is the weakest part of the film.
Like other survival/action movies, there’s also the difficulty of alternatives. An audience will ask, “Why didn’t he just?” Like in I Am Legend (2007), why doesn’t he just get in that metal thing too? Paul is relatively resourceful and so I feel like if you give a guy a knife, he should be able to survive virtually anything with relative ease. There’s a point in the movie, and I can’t say this spoils anything, where sand starts to come in through widening cracks in the box. To my mind, this means the structure is weakened and it’s time to try to swim through the sand. I’d like to give that the ol’ college try before succumbing to slow, mentally anguishing death. I’m not saying Paul dies, I’m just saying that I’m not the kind of girl that’s going to wait to be picked up.
I’m inclined to give Reynolds all the credit for making such a limited story so engrossing. When I’m watching a movie I intend to review, I’ll pause the action and put in one of the quotes I think I’ll lead with or do a little blurb on a thought I have. In this one, I paused only once because the quote (above) was just too perfect, and that was probably 10 minutes in. From then on, there were only two gratuitous directing intrusions, both extended zoom outs to remind us how close things are in the box–dude, I think everything by necessity being a close up kept the idea fresh in our minds. Still, like Chronicle, when there’s less time to act in, the fewer the mistakes the more amazing the achievement.
On the other side I’m inclined to discount Reynolds’ performance because in a way it’s easy–he’s necessarily Method acting by being forced into a box. But that’s ludicrous. I’m sure they took breaks. No, the performance was excellent-to-incredible. The only attention it seems to have gotten is at the Goya Awards (like the Spanish Oscars), since the film was a Spanish production. Reynolds lost Best Actor to Javier Bardiem (Biutiful (2010)), what a bunch of homers.
I love Hitchcock. Some of my best friends are Hitchcock. I didn’t see much in the way of Hitchcock in this movie. Maybe you’ve got to want it (or the allusions come from the ones I haven’t seen yet). Aside: I looked at Hitchcock on IMDB and noticed his name had an odd address (33), so I manually put in 01–it’s Fred Astaire and 02 is Lauren Bacall. It’s an odd commentary.
Again, with the marketers! Where did the people that made this poster come up with this “90 minutes of oxygen” motif? He’s in there for over two hours. Come on!
I’ll put it this way, I’m going to see Red Lights on opening night no matter what I hear.