Sunday, September 11, 2011

Buried: take this job and shove it

In this modern economy of ours, sometimes you have to take a job that you wouldn't take otherwise. Some people flip burgers for minimum wage and some people drive trucks in a war zone.

The first step in the American Dream is cashing those checks. In "Buried," Ryan Reynolds earns every time of his check.

Now before you get all upset over me watching and writing about a movie concerning an American truck driver being buried alive in Iraq on Sept. 11, just chill. I've never been known as one who acts appropriately and, more to the point, horror movies are about pushing boundaries and confronting our preconceptions.

So in a way, watching this movie today IS highly appropriate (he said as he stepped off of his soapbox).

Back to the show.

Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American truck driver in Iraq. Of course, we never see the truck and we never see Iraq. (We do see a lot of sand, though.) Conroy's convoy (how's that for an alternate title?) is attacked and Conroy ends up buried alive with a lighter and a cellphone. That's when the movie starts. We don't get the attack. We come in as Conroy awakes in his wooden coffin.

After trying to call everyone he knows, the State Department and the FBI, Conroy's captors call him. They want money, which made me think they weren't exactly insurgents fighting for their own ideals. Horror movies often play a strange kind of moralist (slashers killing teens engaged in illicit activities). In this thriller, the one thing we can be sure of is that Conroy is the hero, the forces who put him in a box aren't very nice and the government isn't the most helpful organization in the world.

You know who turns out to be the real bad guy? Conroy's employers. Watch the movie and listen for the voice of Stephen Tobolowsky ("Ned? Ryerson? Needle-nose Ned, Ned the Head?") as Conroy's human resources director. Reynolds cranks it up, as we watch him argue with the monotone voice at the other end of the line.

That's how the whole movie plays out. Conroy talks to people, sees a couple videos on his phone and that's it. As Conroy, Reynolds is on-screen, alone, for the entire 95 minutes of the movie. There aren't many actors who could command the screen in this way. With no special effects (or other actors) getting in the way, Reynolds hits his acting best. You can see the stress of the situation on his face and hear it in his voice. It's intense.

Director Rodrigo Cortes has crafted a claustrophobic classic. If you don't like enclosed spaces, watching "Buried" could give you nightmares for weeks. If you like a good -- not great, but definitely good -- psychological thriller, "Buried" offers a satisfactory experience. And if you are sick of glossy, big-budget movies with an over reliance on CGI and other special effects, "Buried" is your movie.

Threat level: ORANGE. Yeah, we use the Bush-era terror alerts for our ratings system. Sure has an added meaning here.

"Buried" is rated R and is currently available on Netflix Instant Watch. Directed by Rodrigo Cortes and starring Ryan Reynolds.

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