Friday, 27 May 2011

Buried

He's not having a good day... image via The Guardian
2010's Buried stars Ryan Reynolds (and except for a few people the other end of a phone, only Ryan Reynolds) as an American truck driver in Iraq who is kidnapped by terrorists and buried alive. The entire film stays in the coffin for the full running time, with Reynolds becoming more and more stressed by the situation as time goes own. The film was very well received by critics, but obviously it took no time at all to find some contrary opinions on amazon.co.uk:
A man makes phone calls in a coffin for an hour and a half (Yes I suppose that is true, but every film would be simple if you whittle it down to a single sentence. The Godfather saga would be pretty simple if you described it as 'A man becomes a crime boss and things don't go well for 9 hours.')
I'm surprised there are customers on here giving this film 5 stars (Really? I'm not surprised that there are 1 star reviews. Peoples opinions differ.), i.e the highest rating possible suggesting this is some sort of amazing film (Yes, and? They obviously felt that it deserved those 5 stars. Personally I'd say four stars would be more appropriate but I can see where they are coming from.). Even if you liked the film could you really say it was that good and mean it? (What? Obviously they did because otherwise they wouldn't've given the film 5 stars would they? People didn't give the bloody film 5 stars just to hurt you.) You would want to sit through it more than once? (Yes I would. Indeed I almost certainly will.)

Anyway, the title of my review pretty much sums up the film (Again, you shouldn't just describe a film in a sentence. Citizen Kane could become 'A dick dies.' But that would be stupid.), which creates unrealistic (Unrealistic? How so?) suspense and for the most part is Ryan Reynolds making increasingly frantic phone calls (Yes. The phone calls are excellent at introducing fresh tension through his not entirely successful phone calls.). All the while the background music is ramping up and the camera spins about a bit trying to convince you this is a thrilling film (It's not trying to 'convince' you of anything. It is a thrilling film.). I found it actually quite tedious (Well you are very much in the minority there I'm afraid), especially as most viewers know the camera never leaves the coffin (Many will know that for sure, but you can't possibly claim that 'most' will know that. Not if you expect to be taken seriously anyway.), nothing else is going to happen, so in the end all you want to know is if he gets out or not (I knew that the camera never left and it didn't ruin the film for me at all, there was still plenty of tension.). The only drama that unfolds for the protaganist is dealing with annoyingly stupid/heartless people on the phone (The annoyance of being put on hold/coming across unhelpful phone operators is very much at the heart of the film, at least as much as being buried alive.) and a ridiculous scene where a snake comes out of nowhere, providing something for our hero to do (I believe it had come into the coffin through a small hole whilst he was sleeping)
I really wouldn't bother with this film, it was brave attempt but turned out to be an empty film with little point. (Well it has as much a point as any other film. Is to entertain and to thrill no longer good enough? Besides this film does have messages. That innocent people are often made to suffer during times of war, and that being put on hold is really fucking annoying...)
Here's another one for your delectation:
This is a film that is far too in love with its own cynicism (I don't think its 'too in love' with anything. I mean I could get it if you complained that it was trying to be too clever with its stripped back story, but too in love with its cynicism? Give me a break.). That causes two major problems (I bet that they aren't that major...), but first, the good things, which others have touched on ('Others' being intelligent people probably...);

The script is, by and large, pretty good. (The script was very good. No 'by and large' about it.)
There is a VERY tense atmosphere. (There is. Congrats.)
The lead and solo [visible] actor is excellent. (He is indeed. Not many would have thought that Ryan Reynolds could have pulled this off, but he did. Expertly. Also, I would throw in the direction by Rodrigo Cort├ęs as being superb. He got that camera into every conceivable spot.)

BUT...the film doesn't want to you to feel good about anything (It doesn't beat people up for being happy. I mean it isn't by any means a happy little number, but I've seen far more depressing films.). Anything at all (It's probably okay with you being glad that you aren't buried alive...). Our hero, Paul, phones several people. He's constantly put on hold. Whilst this adds to the tension, it soon becomes clear that rather than using a jaded worldview to create dramatic effect, the writer is more interested in making his character suffer because he can't think of something else to do (Look, films rely on interesting events. Sometimes, those events are not happy events. The film would be pretty dull if Reynolds just went around doing a bit of shopping and driving his truck around. If you want to watch something that makes you feel good inside stick with Disney. Not a film entitled Buried about a man who is buried alive. I'm forced to ask, how fucking dimwitted are you?).

So enter the plot holes: we are presented with some incongruities that never amount to anything (I'm curious to see how bad these are... Oh, and SPOILERS ahoy);

-A woman mad at Paul...though we never find out why, making his angry outburst totally unsympathetic (Pretty sure it is explained actually... And he's buried alive. I think he was pretty upset about that so his outburst is really quite understandable...).
-A woman knowing Paul's name then pausing dramatically before telling him HOW she knew it, making you suspect something is wrong (I think that is what is known as a red herring.).
-The counter-hostage guy man acting very suspiciously on the phone, again leading you to think that something larger and more devious is happening (That is a continuation of the previous red herring. It is perfectly acceptable for a film to lead you to question another characters motives, when they are in fact clean.).
-A video of a fellow hostage (NOT buried, by the way (Well they didn't bury her so that they could force him to do as they asked by threatening her.)) who is killed. Yet the story she gives and the story given by the people on the phone don't add up. This too goes nowhere (I don't remember anything like that, personally. And besides, not one of those is a plot hole. A plot hole is something that disrupts the flow of the plot. Things such as the omission of relevant information, direct contradiction between two parts of the film, events which are impossible or otherwise do not sit with the established world, or such things as characters performing actions that contradict past actions etc. could all be plot holes. What you have listed here do not fall into any of these categories.).

And then Dramatic DevelopmentsTM ('DevelopmentsTM'? What the fuck?) that DO lead to something, namely two F-16's levelling part of the city where Paul is buried. Why are they flattening part of a city? Because the scriptwriter wants the character to suffer, logic be damned. (Because there are lots of insurgents there? That might be a reason...) 

And so we come to the ending (SPOILERS aplenty here too, funnily enough...). I could have forgiven the flaws above- even the silly use of a Zippo lighter in an enclosed space that doesn't eat up the air at all- (But it does use up the air. He says repeatedly that he can't breathe properly when he has it on. And then someone else tells him to use it sparingly because it uses up oxygen. There is plenty of air in a coffin though, he would last a little while.) if the ending hadn't been so bad, so WRONG (An ending cannot be 'wrong'. You may dislike it, but it is not wrong. Besides, the ending sits perfectly with the rest of the film. If the rest of the picture had been a rabbit doing a merry jig in a field, then perhaps you could have a point. But it wasn't, so you don't.). Rather than amount to anything, even in a tragic or dramatic way that moves the story or your understanding forward, all we learn is that the [END] happens, then the film finishes. (Because the story has been told. Paul is dead so there's nothing else to say.)

No aftermath, no consequences (I think the aftermath is pretty obvious. Why does it need to be shown?); just pure, hateful cynicism for it's own unlovely sake (Why can't a film be cynical? And as I said up there ☝, there is plenty of purpose for this film). The sake of cheap shock (It's not cheap. In many ways this is far more terrifying than Saw or anything like that. Gore is cheap shock, tension and suspense are the true kings of horror). And that is why I despise this film. 
It goes nowhere then stops. (I wish your review had stopped about 8 paragraphs ago...)
Those were both pretty long, so we'll close today's edition with this shorter one:
I was'nt (Wasn't, the apostrophe denotes where letters have been removed, not where two words have been joined.) expecting much before watching this film (Always good to go in with an open mind...) - but the fact it had Ryan Reynolds in was the factor that made me watch this / very disappointing (That is so very not how forward slashes should be used...) - we never left the coffin (Not necessary. Indeed, I would say the fact we never leave the coffin brings us closer to Conroy's plight.), we never saw the introduction of him getting into the coffin (Because that would have been completely extraneous and unnecessary. He's in there, so we can safely presume he was put in there, why would we need to see it?), lots of completely black screen moments where you're mind just drifted away (Your small mind might have drifted away, but I felt the black screen bits with only the sound of his ragged breathing pretty damn effective.), his air supply seemed to last an awful long time unless he was getting air in (It was a fairly big box. It would have taken a while for the air to run out.) - because somehow a snake got in ?? (It came in a hole, yes, but underground, so little air would come in through there) He fell asleep at least twice (So? What point are you trying to make here?), he was tied and gagged in the coffin - the abductor took a big risk, that he would wake in time before suffocating and could then release himself (He was bound and gagged, one suspects, so that he couldn't shout for help or anything should he wake up before they had got him into the coffin.) and get to the items they left for him at his FEET ? (They probably just chucked them into the coffin) He had the poorst (Good God man, learn to type...) quality battery in the phone, it only took one or two calls before losing charging bars (It was an old model, that had only half battery when he found it.). He was told to use the phone sparingly - but the guy who told him to do this ended up telling him a long story (I think he weighed up the options and decided that making him feel better was more important. Especially since he had already realised they probably wouldn't find him in time)
Theres lots more i could add (Bet you've run out of things to say...)- but this film was nonsense from start to finish (It wasn't really... It made perfect sense.), made on the lowest budget of any film i could imagine (It was made for less than $2 million. I've seen films with smaller budgets. Paranormal Activity, for example. But just because it has a small budget doesn't make it bad. In many ways it can be a plus since there is less pressure to be hugely successful to recoup the funds there is more artistic freedom. I'd rather see this than the multi-million dollar train wrecks that are the Pirates of the Caribbean or Transformers movies again...).  
If you want a good film about a guy buried alive - try "Buried Alive" & "Buried Alive II" starring Tim Matheson. (Films so good they don't even have wikipedia pages... Even IMDB, the world's worst site for sensible ratings, can only muster around 6 and 4 out of 10 respectively for them.)
I think that'll do for today, though there are plenty more reviews for this film, so we may be returning some day in the future! 

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