Buried

This thriller is based on a high concept that actually works surprisingly well. It’s the story of a US government contracted trucker in Iraq who wakes up after an attack, only to discover that he has been buried alive in a wooden coffin somewhere in the desert. His kidnappers leave him a cell phone to try to get a million dollars ransom or they’ll let him die. And the entire film takes place in the coffin with Paul, played by Ryan Reynolds. You would think no way could a feature film 1 hour and 40 minutes long be visually interesting enough to hold attention. But it does because it is dramatically entrapping.

As Paul seeks to call his loved ones and those who might help rescue him, we learn he is working for a government contracted company to drive supplies in Iraq for the US government. The film incarnates anti-war politics into the thriller plot. It’s message is that of guilt by complicity. The point is made several times that Paul sees himself as an innocent citizen just making a living doing his job, and he is therefore not responsible for the war. While the kidnappers are supposedly not terrorists, just Iraqis who are reacting out of desperation because their country is being decimated by the war brought on by the United States. As Paul says he’s not a soldier, just a guy with a family, we hear the kidnapper say that he is just an Iraqi citizen and his family is being destroyed by the US.

So the filmmaker makes the same moral equivalency argument that terrorists make, namely that innocent civilians are just as guilty as soldiers and deserve to die because they go along with the military. Knowing this is the moral, makes you immediately know how it has to end: with Paul’s death. He cannot ultimately be rescued because then his guilt would not be punished according the values that the filmmakers are espousing in this moral sermon.

An anti-corporate message is also communicated as we see the cold heartless bureaucrat from the corporation who hired him using a contractual technicality to fire him on the phone while he is in the coffin, thus freeing the corporation from responsibility and insurance accountability to his family.

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