Monday, October 4, 2010
It happens...well, at least every summer, but it feels like every couple of months, really. People go nuts for some big action film. Some big action film gets the thorough beating it probably deserves in the critical community (well, these days, it only takes one negative review for a riot to break out), and the old "just turn off your brain and enjoy it!" line gets thrown out. Now here's the thing - I am all for turning off my brain at the movies. But my whole thing is that I want the people who made the damn thing to have put some thought into it. And frankly, I can tell when that process has taken place and when it hasn't, and there is quite often a direct line between them thinking and me enjoying.
Buried is a really smart piece of entertainment, even when it's not. By this I mean that it's a 95-minute movie that takes place entirely inside a damn box. So if you thought Hitchcock was inventive with Lifeboat or Rope or Rear Window, you don't even know from limitations. But it's more aggressive or propulsive than anything else I've seen all year. However, it does stretch its limitations - Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) has been buried alive with only a cell phone, a bit of food, a flask of alcohol, and a lighter, and the people he calls routinely treat him like a prank caller. We're all familiar with the runaround when we're calling because the cable's out, but I think there's some truth to the story that government officials treat every call like a serious call.
But even when that's frustrating - both for Paul and for dramatic plausibility - Cortés and Reynolds more than make up for it. Reynolds is one of cinema's most charismatic actors these days, and few others, including a great deal of more talented ones, would be better suited to his task. After all, we hear other voices on the phone, but every real emotional beat rests with him, and he's not allowed a ton of room for physical expression. Cortés, for his part, finds every nook and cranny from which to shoot, and keeps a cutting rhythm as exciting as any scene in Inception (only he, you know, maintains it for the film's running time), building to one of the most breathless climaxes in (wait for it) film history. Yes, I just went there.