Sunday, October 17, 2010

Buried

A review from a renowned critic on the movie Buried prompted me to read Edgar Allan Poe's short story on the subject of being buried alive entitled, "The Premature Burial." After having read his account, I began to have rather uneasy feelings and qualms about watching a movie which features this situation. The thought of being trapped in a coffin alive is certainly disturbing, not to say morbid. Not to be weak-minded and silly, I decided to proceed with my plans to watch this movie which I have been anticipating for a good two months since I watched the trailer.


Imagine waking up to pitch darkness and finding out that you are in a small enclosed place. You find it hard to breathe, you begin to gasp for air. After a while you begin to scream and move around desperately trying to get out. But no matter how much you struggle or how loud you scream, there is just no way out. You are trapped. This is the fate that befell Paul Conroy in the brilliant action thriller Buried which I was fortunate enough to catch in the cinema last weekend.

Minor Spoilers to Follow!!!

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a U.S contractor working in Iraq. Paul wakes up to complete darkness and finds that he has difficulty breathing. After a while, he finds a lighter and realises that he is in a wooden box. He finds a cell phone and is awakened to the fact that he has been attacked and captured and is now being held hostage in a coffin. The unimaginable has happened: He has been buried alive.

It is difficult to imagine what is running through Paul Conroy's mind. The events that led to this horrifying reality? What is he going to do? Who can help to get him out of this desperate situation? Paul proceeds to call a whole list of people whom he thinks can get him out of his predicament. He calls the police, his wife, his employer's office and even the Pentagon. All these calls are exercises in futility as no one seems to be able to help him. Frustrated and drained of energy, Paul finally gets a call from his kidnapper demanding that his family pays a ransom of five million dollars for his release. Paul is also shown a video of one of his colleagues being executed when the demands of the kidnappers are not met as a foreshadowing of what is in store for him should he not agree to pay the ransom.

The rest of the movie focusses on Paul's deperate efforts to be rescued. His continuous efforts and desperation were at moments painful and heart-wrenching to watch. The other events which take place in the coffin are best left to the imagination for people who have yet to watch the movie. It is safe to say that the movie is indeed very realistic and every event that takes place in the coffin can certainly happen. The terror is real.

I know that some people may not appreciate this movie and some may even go on to say that it is shallow and empty. I thought it was brilliant. Unlike Hollywood productions which tend to depend on massive effects to entertain, Buried chooses to depend on the limited and still manages to capture its audiences' attention for a whole 94 minutes. This is attributed to the filmmaker's decision not to show any scenes of what goes on at the other end. There are no scenes showing the 911 operators, the employee in the Pentagon, Paul's wife and child or the kidnappers. There is no flashback of the attack and therefore no scenes of explosions or gunfire. By omitting those scenes, the audience gets to experience what Paul is going through. We are taken along on Paul's journey and we feel his frustration, agony and fear as like him, we also experience the desperate need to reach the other end.

There are a few aspects of the movie that I wish to draw attention to. I particularly loved the way the movie began. After the opening credits, the audience is left in silence and total darkness for a good two minutes before we are made aware that someone is breathing. This simple device slowly draws the audience into Paul's experience before he wakes up to the terrifying reality of his situation. Ryan Reynolds is best known for his role in the sitcom Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place and roles in romantic comedies such as The Proposal and Definitely, Maybe. I can say with conviction that he has certainly come a long way. This is the first dramatic role from this actor which I managed to catch and I must say I was pleasantly surprised as his performance was rather excellent given the limited space he had to work with. The range of emotions he managed to portray was genuine and convincing. This is indeed a breakthrough performance for Ryan Reynolds. I was also amazed at the amount of action which took place in the coffin. You would think that a movie which only features a man in a box would be anything but exciting. Buried triumphs and gives us so much more.

As for the ending, well, I won't give anything away, but let's just say that it ended just as it should have. This show is definitely not made for the faint-hearted and if you feel squeamish about coffins and are claustrophobic, you should give this a miss. As for me, I can say that there was not a single dull moment in Buried and the experience that it gave me was worth every cent. I certainly have no regrets.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Devil

2010 is suffering from a dearth of good movies. I remember a time when there were so many fantastic summer blockbusters that I couldn't keep up with the movies showing in the cinemas. This year, however, is different. In fact, I find it difficult this year to actually say that certain movies are good and worth the money I spent. Many of the 3D features were also very disappointing. With the exception of features such as Inception, the movies shown this year have nothing much going on for them.

Having not watched movies over the last few weekends, I was starved for my weekly dose of movies at the cinema. The latest feature I managed to catch last weekend is the feature entitled, Devil. Devil is M. Night Shyamalan's latest attempt to redeem his reputation as a film maker which has been ruined by features such as Signs, The Happening and from what I hear, The Last Airbender. Devil carries a simple, yet profound plot of the Devil's quest to earth to claim the morally wrong and (personally) escort them to hell.

I found the opening credits particularly interesting as the city was portrayed upside down, indicating that things are about to go really wrong and the natural order of things have been upset. The story begins with a suicide, which apparently opens the door for the devil to enter. Sent to investigate the case is Detective Bowen, who has recently lost his wife and child in a hit and run. While investigating the case, the story shifts to people in the building and focusses on five strangers in an elevator. The elevator suddenly gets stuck between floors and the people begin to panic while viewing each other with annoyance and distrust. The five people trapped in the elevator are: the mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green), the security guard (Bokeem Woodbine), the salesman (Geoffrey Arend), the old woman (Jenny O'Hara) and the young woman (Bojana Novakovic).

The group of people eventually get in touch with security guards (Matt Craven and Jacob Vargas) who can see them, but unfortunately are unable to hear them. The guards try to pacify the group and assure them that rescue is on the way. The people in the elevator begin to get impatient and quarrels and accusations ensue. Amidst this dire circumstances, things get worse when the power in the elevator becomes unstable, sometimes leaving the elevator in complete darkness. After several flashes, the young woman seems to have been injured by something. Then the situation escalates when people start dying one by one each time there is a blackout. The remaining survivors begin losing their minds and the guards watching the horrific events taking place in the elevator are also badly affected. Who the murderer is remains a mystery.

One of the guards, Ramirez, however, is convinced that this is the work of the Devil himself. He recounts tales his mother used to tell him when he was young about how the Devil would occasionally come down to earth himself to collect the souls of sinners. Witnessing the events in the elevator and pointing out an image of an evil face he saw in the elevator earlier on, Ramirez is even more convinced that this is indeed the Devil's work. Upon further investigation, it was revealed that all the people in the elevator have done deeds which are worthy of harsh punishment and it was not completely absurd that the Devil should want to claim them. The Devil is finally revealed when the last two remaining survivors battle it out in the elevator.

The twist at the end of the movie ties all the loose ends together and manages to deliver a profound message about forgiveness and repentance. All in all, a pretty decent movie, well-casted and carefully delivered. I guess M. Night Shyamalan managed to hit the mark this time. The visual effects used in the movie, though simple were rather effective and complemented the tension and panic rather effectively. I really liked the closing scene of the movie when all complications were resolved and the city is shown in its original upright and natural form, indicating that all is well and order has been restored. One thing is for sure though, I would definitely think twice about going for long rides in elevators with a bunch of strangers...