Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Not Much Room In Here, Huh?

As I've said already, my cinema going dwindled somewhat over the summer. SHAME, SHAME ON ME, I know. As the new term quickly approached I realised I had to dust off my Cineworld card and stop moaning about not seeing anything new. Before jetting off to Delhi, I made sure I went to see at least one new film I wanted to see... not that I was worried about being sold for camels, but you never know what's gonna happen. With my hair I reckon I'd go for a pretty good price.

Given the adventure/apprehension that lay ahead, the natural choice was OF COURSE Buried. I needed tips, y'know, in case our Action Man bus guard's AK-47 wasn't enough to ward off any potential attacks. The premise for the film is so simple, it could've been made on an Academy budget- Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), a truck driver in Iraq, is kidnapped by terrorists and trapped in a box underground. He wakes up with only a phone, a Zippo lighter and a hip flask. With a $5, 000, 000 ransom on his head, a dwindling phone battery and an even more dwindling supply of oxygen, time is all Paul has on his side. The genius of the film is that everything we learn, we learn from Paul himself. The film opens with a full minute of darkness and heavy breathing, before he wakes up screaming. From then we only have phone calls from his kidnappers and frantic calls to the American embassy and his employers to put together where Paul is and why.

There are no sets, coffin aside, and no other visible characters onscreen. The only other characters are introduced via phone conversations and even then it's scarce at best. It is quite literally a man in a box, for an hour and a half. The whole film plays out in real time, which really adds to the tension. Every minute counts and unfortunately for Paul, he only knows he's in a box somewhere near the province where he was taken. The voices on the phone don't seem too over-enthusiastic about his release, and as Paul gets increasingly desperate, so does his situation. OK, so it's hardly action packed, but I think this is the beauty of the whole thing. The film really does hinge on the central performance and Ryan Reynolds is a surprising revelation. As time, air and batteries threaten to run out, he gets increasingly more frantic. The FBI and his employers seem more ancious to preserve their reputation, and even Paul knows that no one will pay such a huge amount for him.

Having to draw on his own resources, the economic writing shows a man growing more and more aware that he might not actually get home-although there are plenty of points along the way to suggest otherwise. The writing is fantastic, and the script is brought to life by Reynolds' fascinating solo performance. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, especially as it creeped closer to 9pm in film-time... which was when Paul was either done for or about to be lifted to a triumphant rescue. The tension was handled superbly- I can kind of appreciate it more now, after our classes with Richard about suspense and tension in a screenplay. It's a difficult thing to do while also keeping your audience engaged, and you always have to keep them guessing. Right up until the final scene I was torn between what was going to happen to Paul. One emotional phone call to his wife was particularly affecting, as he told her he'd definitely be home soon. I almost felt a wee lump in my throat! *ahem*

Buried proves you don't need huge budgets, flashy effects and a roster of A-list stars to make your film a success. In my opinion, it's all the better for it. It's stripped down, and relies solely on writing, performance and clever camera-work to make it believable. Being buried alive is the most horrific thing I can imagine, and director Rodrigo Cortes makes sure we experience the whole terrifying ordeal. I don't know how it'll transfer onto DVD but in the cinema, with the lights down and everyone sitting in silence, the huge hall suddenly felt clammy and claustrophobic. It just goes to show how the simplest idea, with the right execution, can be pulled off successfully. I did feel the need to run about in a meadow like a dog that's just been let off the leash afterwards, and I had some pretty horrific dreams for a couple of nights afterwards. For such a tiny film to have such a huge impact did help alot to soothe my despair over the recent onslaught of 3D, and proves that for every big-budget blockbuster, there's a little ingenious thought-provoker waiting to break out.

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