Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reel Rhino Review: Rodrigo Cortés' BURIED

Wow...and I mean Wow!

BURIED stars Ryan Reynolds and is directed by Rodrigo Cortés.  This film left me shaken...this is a movie that is not watched, but experienced.

BURIED was slated for a decent sized release, but apparently test runs in major markets didn't turn out as well as they could have.  BURIED had a decent presence at the San Diego Comic-Con, which is usually a decent indicator that a film will be pushed pretty hard by the studios...but this was not the case.

BURIED was released on a single screen in Kansas City, with very little fanfare.  It is sad to see the rug pulled out from what I see as a very entertaining exercise in filmmaking.  BURIED opened in select markets playing in 11 theaters, and at its widest, it expanded to 107 theaters nationwide.  I wish the suits would learn that you gotta spend money to make money....risk a bit on films like this and the payoff will be huge.  Prints & Advertising was awful for BURIED, which again with the Comic-Con presence, that is a huge surprise to me.  BURIED would have thrived off of itself, but it never had the chance.

Perhaps it is the experimental nature of this film which was its undoing.  I commend Cortés and those that supported this movie being made.  Why is it experimental, you ask?  From opening shot to final credits, the entire film takes place in a single location: a coffin buried several feet beneath the sands of an unknown location in Iraq.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is the main character and the only on-screen body we see throughout the film.  I think if I were to list my man-crushes, Ryan Reynolds would be near the top of that list.  I mean that in a totally hetero way....not that there's anything wrong with that (wink wink nudge nudge Seinfeld fans!).  Yep, Reynolds and Bradley Cooper...that's not weird, right!

Back to BURIED...Conroy is an American truck driver who is a civilian contractor in Iraq.  He works for a company called CRT and he has been captured after a group of insurgents ambushed his convoy, which was carrying non-war related supplies.

When he wakes up in the coffin, he has nothing with him except a Blackberry cell phone and a zippo lighter.  To those of you with Blackberry phones, you will appreciate this as you know it is tough to be away from your BB!  The problem of lighting is of course a big one when you are filming in complete darkness.  Cortés overcomes this through the use of the cell phone light and the zippo lighter, and via a few other tricks that develop as the story unfolds.

The movie from start to finish focuses on Conroy.  This is a one-man movie and all other roles are mere voices on the other end of the phone.  Conroy spends the front chunk of this film trying to figure out what the hell happened to him and the back half figuring out what he can do to escape.

You would think that 95 minutes in a single unique location like this would get old fast, but Cortés pulls it off.  Reynolds pulls it off, as well.  The gripping nature of this film is much due to his ability as an actor to convey to you the shear terror of this circumstance!

There is an inherent sense of claustrophobia with this film and the tension is tangible as not only are you digesting what you are seeing, but you are also feeling the walls of the coffin as Cortés well-conveys spatial discomfort.  Ultimately it is creative camera work and lighting and the use of off-screen characters that helps the narrative of this film move smoothly.  It all adds up to a very well told tale!

I think that BURIED will have a short life remaining in theaters.  If you can, see it on the big screen as the ambiance of complete blackness on-screen is stellar in the big theaters.  If not, see it at home, but set the mood right.  This is a harrowing thriller that builds towards an amazing climax.  See this movie!

BURIED gets 4.5 of 5 horns from the REEL RHINO...I look forward to more from Rodrigo Cortés and of course to more from Ryan Reynolds.  If you ever have the chance, check out early-RR on Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place.  Reynolds turn as Berg was hilarious and that show in general was pretty awesome.  Also there is some early Nathan Fillion work featured on the show as well.

Chris Sparling was the screenwriter for this film and generally speaking, his dialogue was both curt and gripping!  He is slated to write one of the upcoming NIGHT CHRONICLES features and I hope it is just as good!

And as a final note, one of my absolute favorite actors (and perhaps people in general), Mr. Stephen Tobolowsky, has a role in BURIED.  As I mentioned, everything else is voice, besides Ryan Reynolds, and since his voice IS his passport, I think he did a great job, as always (see also: SNEAKERS).

I also saw MEGAMIND in 3-D earlier this week.  I think it is a visually stunning movie and it tells a very entertaining story.  I have grown wary of much of Will Ferrell's schtick, but I think he does a great job in this one.  Along with Tina Fey, Jonah Hill, and Mr. Brad Pitt.    A side note, as I was watching, there were some moments I saw glimmers of similarity to the Iron Man saga to date.  Watching the credits, Mr. Justin Theroux, both a talented actor and writer, had given some creative input on the flick.  He was also the scribe for IM 2, so perhaps some of his vision for MegaMind actually made the screen.  If nothing else, he did make the final cut in voice, as he played MegaMind's father.

I have come to appreciate good animation as a substitute for a live-action, action-adventure flick.  Animation is essentially becoming the realistic way to make effects-laden films, without any of the sophisticated effects.  I guess since everything is so damn CGI heavy these days, it is hard to distinguish regardless, but these animation features are all so good!  Megamind is in the A-tier of animation.  As was Despicable Me, Toy Story 3, Shrek 4, Horton Hears a Who, Ice Age 3, Madagascar 2, Bolt, etc.....!  Is there too much great animation?  Avatar is an animated feature, if you want to get technical, right?  It is CGI with photo-realistic images, but just because something is photo-real, doesn't mean it is live-action...I guess it's a deeper topic than I want to get into right now, but perhaps deserves a closer look.  When you factor in a four-way battle with: hand-drawn vs. CGI animation vs. motion/performance capture vs. live-action with CGI, the lines become pretty blurry!

What about the upcoming week?  I hear that UNSTOPPABLE is quite a spectacle and is leaning towards ridiculous, but ridiculous in that good, Tony Scott kind of way.  I like the Tony Scott/Denzel show and I really liked the breakout performance of Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk.  It'll be nice to see him in something else for a better idea of who he is as an action-star.

I will see unstoppable this weekend and perhaps MORNING GLORY.  Morning Glory looks like a great comedy and almost like a darker comedy of sorts, which will hopefully override the cheesy parts.  I love Harrison Ford in general and I really liked his bits in the trailer.  I am sure that I will like it, as a friend recently put it, it takes little more than dancing puppet popsicle sticks to entertain me. 

It may sound bad, but I take it as a great compliment...

Until later, take care...

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