Movie Review: Buried

Movie Review: Buried

Buried Rating:  M Distributor: Sony Release Date: October 7, 2010Fair warning: Buried is not for people who suffer from claustrophobia, nyctophobia or ophidiophobia. In short, avoid it if you’re prone to nightmares. This new thriller, set around the story of a man who wakes to find himself buried alive, tweaks every conceivable terror associated with confined spaces, and […]

By Mark HadleyTuesday 19 Oct 2010MoviesReading Time: 5 minutes

Rating:  M
Distributor: Sony
Release Date: October 7, 2010

Fair warning: Buried is not for people who suffer from claustrophobia, nyctophobia or ophidiophobia. In short, avoid it if you’re prone to nightmares. This new thriller, set around the story of a man who wakes to find himself buried alive, tweaks every conceivable terror associated with confined spaces, and still finds room for more than a few surprises. Fears aside, though, Buried is also a thinking film. When a man’s world shrinks to the size of a coffin, what will he make room for?

Ryan Renolds plays Paul Conroy, an American contractor working in Iraq whose last memory of the outside world is of being involved in a roadside attack by insurgents. However his true nightmare begins when he awakes to find himself tied up in an old wooden crate buried somewhere beneath the sand. At his feet is his only link to the outside world: a mobile telephone that allows both his rescuers and his tormentors to communicate with him. With 90 minutes of oxygen left, he has to carefully consider how he will spend what could be his last moments on earth … or under it.

Director Rodrigo Cortés has created Buried as something of homage to Alfred Hitchcock. Like Hitchcock’s Rope, the film runs in real time. We stay with Paul Conroy for his entire horrifying ordeal. Like Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, Buried finds all of its tension in one well-managed location, in this case a box measuring no more than two metres by half a metre. It’s a crowded space. Cortés not only crams in his leading man but all of his fear, frustration, sadness, calm and hope. And for good measure, he includes the biggest question every human will face: how will I meet death?

Conroy is a painfully sympathetic character. He regrets taking the lucrative job that separated him from his family, the safety advice he ignored, his distant relationship with his son, and his inability to exchange just three more words with his wife. Death has clearly caught him unprepared, as it will most of us. Speaking to a helpless rescue worker he breaks down and says, “I just want to do right by my family – I didn’t think it would be like this.” The rescue worker speaks for all of us when he answers, “None of us did.”

Conroy makes a frenzy of telephone calls from his underground prison, but throughout the film it amazed me how little he had to say. Of course there’s the completely believable pleas for help, rising occasionally to panic and outrage. There’s even a little black humour when he answers an inept FBI agent’s query as to what the kidnappers say they will do if the ransom isn’t paid: “Send me to SeaWorld.” But the personal messages are all pretty much the same – variations on ‘I love you’ or ‘I want to see you again’. Don’t get me wrong, they would be the first to spring to my lips too. But what is very clear is that Conroy is a character whose only hope in seeing his loved ones again rests solely on getting out of that box. That might sound obvious, but let me take you to Asia to explain…

In 2008 and 2009 two separate American studies examined the endurance and survival rates of US prisoners of war during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. The research discovered that the stronger an individual’s faith, the more likely they were to draw strength from a hope that there is a purpose and meaning to life, regardless of the tortures they suffered. Related research also suggested that generalised morality was not nearly as helpful. Prisoners with vague religious commitments struggled to process the sort of traumatic events that challenged defense personnel – and maybe not just defense personnel? Our faith clearly plays a part in shaping the way we respond to the worst threats.

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I found the terrors suffered by Paul Conroy perfectly appreciable, especially as a married man with children. But the best Buried’s leading character can manage when confronted with his death is a calm bordering on despair, because for him all relationships end at the grave. However Christians through the ages have bourn remarkable testimony that there is another, better way to face even the most violent death. Laying hold of it, though, depends on who you have in the box with you.

Glee – Season 2
RELEASE DATE: Wednesdays, 7:30 PM

‘Gleeks’ are celebrating across Australia – the second series of the hit musical series Glee has kicked off on Network TEN. For those of you not familiar with the Glee phenomenon, it tells the story of ten mismatched students and a handful of teachers at the fictional William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio.  The plot lines revolve around the students membership of the school’s Glee Club, and the excuse that it provides to introduce several song and dance numbers each episode. Basically you’re looking at Home and Away meets Fame with a healthy dose of the High School Musical trilogy thrown in.

Glee may sound simplistic but it has been earning plaudits here and overseas. The first season picked up a Golden Globe earlier this year for ‘Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy’. Broken up into two parts, it also reaped rich rewards for Network TEN. The second season is likely to do the same. The first series dealt with the Glee club’s progress through the sectional and regional stages of a national competition. Season two kicked off with the McKinley team trying to attract new members for their determined assault on ‘nationals’ and the introduction of a whole new host of villains.

Glee is a televisual phenomenon. Beyond the small screen, viewers have purchased more than five million soundtrack albums and its producers plan a 3D film for release in the not too distant future. Given the attention it has earned in the tween to twenty-something audience, it’s worth being at least a little aware of what so may people are watching. Generally speaking, the content is fairly benign, or at worst, reflective of the moral questions confronting teens today: students regularly struggle to understand the place sex occupies in their lives, while dealing with the consequences of finding out too soon. There is also a healthy dose of the Hollywood mantra, ‘You can get there if you try’, but it is tempered with the realism that not everyone can be a star, and discovering who you were made to be is actually the real goal.

Regardless of the conclusions offered, this is fruitful ground for just the sort of conversations parents should probably be having with their children. The fact that the third episode centres on the supposed appearance of Jesus’ face on a grilled cheese sandwich, and the students’ decision to pay tribute to the Son of God leaves the door wide open. And it’s certainly a discussion-starter you won’t have to persuade them to watch.