Here are two films from the last year that you probably heard of, but didn’t have the chance to watch: one is a claustrophobic tale of terror starring a single actor, the other is a comically brutal action comedy starring a cast of young rising stars and one veteran.
Buried, a Spanish-directed and produced film, is a work of fiction about an American in Iraq. Directed by Rodrigo Cortes, this Hitchcock-inspired thriller in a modern wartime setting is frightening, intense, and even a bit emotionally draining, yet strangely mesmerizing for a movie with only one main character in a single setting.
Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American truck driver in Iraq. He finds himself buried in a coffin underground with only a Zippo, a flashlight, glow sticks, a knife, a flask, and a working cell phone on his person. He begins to piece together how he got there and uses the phone to make connections with the outside world—his wife, his acquaintances, his company, the FBI, anyone who may be able to locate and rescue him. But as the hours tick away, his life becomes more in jeopardy as the unsettling motives behind his abduction unravels.
It’s true that the story could have been better developed but for what it had and for what it does accomplish, Buried is a remarkable and breathtaking film. There are many physical and psychological twists and turns that one would not expect for a movie that solely takes place in an underground coffin. While it’s not at all meant to be an inspirational survival story, there are many sociopolitical issues that are brought up as Paul comes to terms with his unbelievable situation, and makes us think about how the turbulent world around us plays out. We somehow connect with him through all the darkness and hope that he’ll be able to come out alive and safe till the end. With the help of Chris Sparling’s thoughtful screenplay and Cortes’ direction, Reynolds pulls off one of his best roles yet as a dramatic character.
It’s a scary experience to feel like you’re buried alive along with Paul Conroy, but that is the strange power of this movie, that it gives you an attachment to the character and everything that is going to happen to him. Don’t let the single setting fool you—Buried is far from being a meaningless hole in the ground.
OVERALL SCORE: 9/10
Darkness in the super-violent superhero vehicle Kick-Ass is also surprisingly prevalent, but the laughs are bound to outnumber any dread you may have. Based on a comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., Kick-Ass delightfully pushes the limits of typical action films and makes it outrageous yet definite well-rounded entertainment.
The story is about a New York City teenage boy, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), who takes his comic book obsession to a whole new level when he takes a hand at becoming a superhero himself. Despite having no actual superhuman powers, Dave’s masked alter-ego Kick-Ass fascinates the world when one of his street fights makes it on YouTube. Two other vigilantes come to Kick-Ass’ aid later on—Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter Hit Girl (Chloe-Grace Moretz). Together they become endangered by Big Daddy’s long-time enemy, the crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), whose son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) takes on the masked alter-ego of Red Mist to lure the heroes into their trap. Can these very normal folks in capes and face coverings fight the ultimate criminals? You’ll just have to watch and find out.
While Kick-Ass is meant to be a fun movie, it does something that a lot of “fun” movies fall short in, that it succeeds in telling a well-developed and solid story. Character backgrounds are explored thoroughly and the audience grows along with each protagonist, following them from normalcy to their ascent into mimicking comic book antics into their real lives. The violence is graphic, but usually campy, as in lite-Kill Bill: Vol 1. It’s not necessarily a satire despite the hilarious monologues and dialogues and exaggerated blood and gore—it’s a new kind of legitimate comic book hero film, combining comedy with underdog narratives. Kick-Ass excellently lives up to its title to provide one of the most no-holds-barred enjoyments of the last year, and one that can be liked now and for at least a few more years to come.
OVERALL SCORE: 9/10