Supergirl From TIFF: Ryan Reynolds' BURIED (Beware Spoilers!!)
Published at: Sept. 15, 2010, 11:01 a.m. CST by merrick
Supergirl is back with a review of the Ryan Reynolds thriller BURIED, directed by Rodrigo Cortés.
The review is mixed-to-positive, but Supergirl takes particular umbrage with the film's conclusion - which is POINTEDLY SPOILED during her review.
In short, there's quite a bit that Supergirl appreciated about the film, but she feels Ryan Reynolds' actions (or inaction) in the final moments of the picture pretty much shorts out the good stuff that had come before.
PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION WHEN READING THIS REVIEW IF YOU WISH TO REMAIN WHOLLY UNSPOILED ABOUT BURIED. We have made every effort to clearly mark and denote the SPOILER region, so hopefully it'll be reasonably easy to avoid.
Still, you've been warned. Tread carefully both in the article, and the Talkbacks below. Enjoy!
BURIED, which premiered here tonight at TIFF. Ryan Reynolds was in the house with director Rodrigo Cortes and writer Chris Sparling.
On that latter individual, a word to the screenwriters of the world: a premise is not a story. Repeat after me: a premise is not a story. One more time? No? Good.
There's no way to get into detail on this without treading into spoiler territory, although I'll save that for the back half of the review. For now, you probably know that BURIED is DIE HARD IN A COFFIN. That's a freaking great idea. Anyone who was dismayed by the original SAW's fondness for jumping out of that locked room, thereby dispelling the narrative tension, is gonna love BURIED. They are not shitting you this time: this entire 90-minute movie takes place in that coffin. No flashbacks, no prologue, nothing. You are in that coffin the whole time.
And as a technical exercise, BURIED is terrific. I am not personally claustrophobic, though the buried-alive sequence in KILL BILL 2 gave me the deep squirms. BURIED is surprisingly less visceral as a whole than those five minutes in KILL BILL, though it does manage a few moments where I was taking deep breaths and/or putting my head in my hands, particularly in the third act.
What's fascinating to me about BURIED is the pure visual treatment of the thing; this thing really keeps its momentum and tension going, given the exceptionally limited visual palette from which to draw. Paul Conroy, Reynolds' character, has a few items in the coffin with him - cell phone, lighter, those glow-stick things, a pencil - and Cortes gets good mileage out of Conroy's frantic interchanges with all of them, particularly the phone. A lot of this movie is spent on the phone, which sounds dull, but isn't. It's the thread that pulls the story along.
And this movie has, flat-out, the best "shit gets worse" moment of the year. Around halfway through the second act, a completely unnecessary but entirely riveting detour takes place when something else turns up in that coffin that wasn't supposed to be there. It's sublime.
OK, and now the SPOILER WARNING for my thoughts on the ending.
HIGHLIGHT BELOW TO READ INVISOTEXT!!
BURIED shits the bed. Those who read my thoughts on VANISHING ON 7TH STREET know that I've been burned already once this week with a movie with no ending; now BURIED can add itself to that list. Here's the thing:
Paul never gets out of that coffin. In the third act the coffin lid cracks and sand pours in, and he slowly gets buried alive (more so than before anyway), and we think he's going to get out, and we're tricked into thinking rescue is imminent, and then it isn't and he doesn't. The end.
Why does this qualify as "shits the bed"? Simple:
Because why do I care? Paul Conroy is our lead character and believe me, Ryan Reynolds works every angle of this part. The problem is not the performance. But as a character with, admittedly, extremely limited options for actions to take, he's a surprisingly passive hero. He makes a bunch of phone calls to alert people to his problem, and that's about it. His kidnapper makes demands of him and he fulfills them; his American "rescuers" talk to him and he does (mostly) what they say. We know this guy is in about 3 or 4 feet of sand because he's got cell phone reception (we are explicitly told this), we know he has a wife and a kid, and when the lid of the fucking coffin cracks and sand comes pouring in and he is seconds away from death, does he even try to stand up and dig his way out of there? Has he learned anything? Has he come to value his life more than he did when he woke up in the coffin? No, apparently not.
Maybe it's a metaphor for the American war in Iraq, i.e. those boys ain't never gonna get out of there, but I tend to doubt it. I think they just couldn't come up with a closer that matched the setup for power.
Look, you either like OPEN WATER or you don't. I hate that movie. It shits the bed too. It's a great example of a premise that was not evolved into a story. A story has a beginning, middle and an end, remember? OPEN WATER didn't. BURIED doesn't.