[Editor’s Note: Script reviews of upcoming projects have been around for as long as there’s been an Internet. Therefore it’s no secret that a film can evolve into something quite different from its screenplay. Please keep in mind that this article represents a look at a particular script and not the final product.]
Brace yourself, because Buried is the feel-good movie of Fall 2010! It’s full of action, laughs, romance and important lessons in why America was awful for freeing 37 million or so Iraqis from a genocidal dictator who liked to feed them into meat grinders. Hey, if your idea of fun is watching a guy in a little box for 91 minutes, brother, your ship has come in!
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If you’re anyone else, I’m guessing the only way you would ever pick this movie to wreck your Friday night is if the alternative was Pauly Shore’s big-budget romantic comedy comeback with Katherine Heigl or some pinko documentary on global warming where Michael Moore has a full-frontal nude scene. And even then it would be a close call.
I guess Ryan Reynolds, who stars as the world’s hunkiest truck driver, did this low budget, American-Spanish-Australian indie because he wanted a role where he could somehow stretch himself in new directions. The dude is a movie star, he looks like a Greek god and he’s married to Scarlet Johansson. What’s the “new direction” that leads to his life being better? If I were Ryan Reynolds, I’d be all about keeping a death-grip on the status quo – “Yeah, that’s a nice Oscar, dude, but look what I’ve got waiting for me at home dressed as a naughty cheerleader. . . have fun polishing your statue, loser!”
The plot is simple – Reynolds is a contractor in Iraq whose convoy got ambushed. They put him in a coffin somewhere and he wakes up with a cell phone and spends the next hour and a half calling people trying to get out. Simple. And about as much fun as a Lawrence Olivier root canal.
The script by Chris Sparling is well-written from a technical standpoint. Substantively, it leaves something to be desired – like the merest hint of originality. The gimmick of never leaving the coffin – all we hear from other characters are voices – is like the film school equivalent of an SNL sketch stretched into a feature – mildly amusing for about five minutes, but after about thirty you’re wondering if you can slit your wrists with the Slurpee lid.
All the clichés are there. Ryan calls the contractor company and they are no help. He calls the FBI and they are no help. He calls the State Department and they are no help. The military is no help either. There’s a lot of not helping in this script. A lot.
And the terrorist calls and speaks in a hilarious pidgin English that makes him sound like a New York cabbie trying to explain particle physics to a terrier. These exchanges are supposed to show us that the – well, don’t call him a terrorist! – okay, the Arab guy, is human too. Those evil Americans – 9/11 wasn’t the not-terrorist’s fault, yet the Americans came and destroyed everything! Oh, and apparently we Americans killed four of his kids. So he has no choice but to murder Americans and bury them alive – all the characters seem to agree on that point. See, the not-terrorists are the victims – much like the audience.
And, of course, there’s the babe in the woods cliché too. Reynolds only took the job because he needed the money but had no idea what he was getting into. Yeah, it’s true that those innocent truck drivers the evil corporations recruit land in Baghdad and are shocked – shocked! – to find out that the reason they are getting paid so well is bad people want to shoot them. Also, the company lied to him because, well, it’s a corporation and in Hollywood corporations always lie to people. And the company is evil too. Because all corporations are evil in Hollywood – and here it’s not just normal evil but full-tilt Snidely Whiplash you’re-kidding-me ridiculously evil.
And the script refers to the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle as a “tank.” Don’t get me started.
So, we have another Iraq movie where the American protagonist is the helpless victim of, well, they don’t say so explicitly but I’m betting it’s Bush. Hell, all the other clichés are there. And from the script, this movie seems to rank on the entertainment scale somewhere between a UTI and, well, being buried alive.
“Buried” goes into limited release this Friday, wide release October 8th.