Buried…In Bad Writing

Buried is a 2009 Spanish film starring Ryan Reynolds and…well actually that’s it. Some other people lend their voices (the stage crew by the quality of it…) but otherwise it’s just Ryan Reynolds in a box. Oh yeah, did I mention it all takes place in a box? Yeah…

This is another movie, like Winter’s Bone, that recieved many plaudits from many reviewers for its acting, directing, photography,  the choreographed dance scenes…no wait, that was a different movie. But, like most reviewers, they completely ignored the story in their review.

And there I finally found my calling. I’m going to review Stories! The stories of games, movies, and book. Since every other reviewer seems content to concentrate on cinematography, acting, directing and choreographed dance scenes, and they all all seem to neglect the poor story, it falls to me to take up the plight of these poor neglected stories.. Movies, games and books were all developed to tell stories, and yet most reviewers don’t seem to give a damn about the story. No longer.

So, on to Buried and the story therein. First of all, all the reviewers are correct, the acting and directing and blah blah blah are all great. The problem is the story…it is in a word…terrible. Certainly not the worst (Star Wars: Episode 1 and End of Violence still hold the tie on that one) but it was pretty bad.

First of all, let’s talk suspension of disbelief: a lot of people have this notion that it’s some kind of fixed point, like a gas tank that will eventually run out if you push it too far. But it’s more like a magic trick, as long as you can keep the audience’s attention on something else while you pull something completely unbelievable out your hat, it all works out. The problem is if someone spots the card up your sleeve or you accidentally disappear into the trap door before the puff of smoke. And that’s the first problem we have with Buried.

The only interaction our main character has with the outside world is a cellphone. Well that makes sense right, I mean he needs some way to communicate with the outside world otherwise this is going to be a really dull movie. But then its starts straying into the country of ridiculous and stupid, and not only stays there but applies for citizenship.

So we’re presented with 3 facts right of the bat:

1. Our main character is buried underground, deep enough that he can’t simply push the lid off and climb out.

2. He’s a civilian contractor working in Iraq.

3. He’s possesses the most powerful cellphone in the known world.

I could accept him calling people in Iraq, maybe a cellphone signal could penetrate through 6 feet of sand enough to make local calls. But when he starts calling his family, his company, the FBI in Milwaukee, and at one point calls 911 to be connected to a local dispatch station in Ohio things start to get a little ridiculous. Now this is the point where another writer would distract us from this obvious break from reality with emotional dialog or cutting to scenes of people answering the phone or something. But not here, we spend much of our time listening to some of the most boring voicemail messages that rival the automated messages you get from technical support. So while we’re listening to these boring messages we have no other recourse but to wonder how exactly he’s getting a signal underground. I mean my cellphone can’t even get a signal from inside my local YMCA.

At first I thought this was going to be one of those movies that had a startling revelation at the end. That he wasn’t actually in Iraq, that he was actually just in a tightly sealed box maybe encased in cement and was in the US. In fact some of the dialog even seems to suggest this is some kind of elaborate con, especially when the FBI starts asking for his social security number. Alas, it’s not so.

But okay, let’s ignore the cellphone supernatural abilities, after all I watch and enjoyed Terminator 2 despite the horrific temporal causality loops that it spawns. Let’s concentrate on how his character reacts. He’s human, so it stands to reason that he’ll act like a human being right? Well, unfortunately that’s apparently too much to ask for.

Now in the following situation what would you do?

Your locked in a box, on the phone with your potential rescuer and he’s telling you its important to stay on the line. But then your kidnapper calls, what do you do?

1. Keep on the line with the guy trying to save your life!

2. Act like a complete moron and hang up

Well anyone with half a brain is going to stay on the line with their rescuer. But apparently our main character was dropped on his head as a baby and hangs up to listen some guy with a bad approximation of an arabic accent ramble on in broken English. How does that make any sense? Well maybe the writer wanted to show the antagonists motives…well if that was his intention than he should have kept the antagonist completely unknown.

You see his kidnapper/potential killer wants 3 million american dollars. Now see, that just presents more questions than it answers.

First of all why would a kidnapper, whose entire business strategy revolves around keeping the kidnapped close at hand for an exchange, bury his victim in the middle of nowhere? Where he could run out of oxygen, or be bitten by venomous animals, or kill himself out of desperation, or worse yet actually be rescued?

Okay, well maybe he was just screwing with the guys mind right? He just wants to send a message to the American invaders, come here and you’ll be buried alive! Well…except until our kidnapper demands our main character that he make a ransom video himself. Yeah…that’s pretty bad planning, you forgot to make the ransom video before burying him?

Oh, and that’s not even the worst part. They discount him. That’s right, when he says to the kidnapper no one will pay 3 million for him, they bump it down to 1 million. I’m pretty sure the kidnappers in Ruthless People did the exact same thing, and they at least had the presence of mind to keep their potential payday within arms reach.

So we have a stupid main character, even dumber criminals, and the most inane conversations I’ve ever heard. At one point the main character, with his cellphone (the only link the outside world and potential rescue) dying, sits through a 5 minute conversation with his boss about how he’s been terminated from the company. Now I for one would not sit around listening to my inane boss prattle on about litigation if I were locked in a casket underground with death only moments away. I get that the writer wants to make a statement about the litigious nature of society today, but you could show some subtlety in doing so.

So what’s worthwhile in this film? Basically everything else. The cinematography, the acting, and the direction are all superb.

The story is still stupid though.

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