[Buried & Let Me In]

Two better-than-average genre films are opening in Seattle this weekend. Hooray! Though you shouldn’t see either of them until you’ve seen Cell 211. (Unless you can’t do prison violence, which I respect. There’s a bit right at the beginning that made even me cover my eyes. But if you can, it is a hell of a movie.)

Anyway, first up is Buried. Ryan Reynolds plays a contractor working in Iraq in 2006. After an attack on his convoy, he awakens in a wooden box, having been kidnapped and buried alive. He has a few items with him, most notable being a lighter and a cell phone, with which he attempts to assess his situation and phone people to help him, to darkly comic effect.

If you’re at all interested in seeing it, you should make the effort to see it in the theater. The entire film takes place inside the box, with the spirit-of-the-law exceptions of (I believe) two shots pulling away from Reynolds as if down a tunnel. It’s just him, in a box, for 90 minutes, and it is utterly compelling. When it ended I went right outside, took big gulps of air, and thought seriously about if I really needed to return to my apartment. It wouldn’t have had nearly the impact on television, but it totally worked in a room in the dark.

Last night I caught a midnight screening of Let Me In. Now, I am a huge fan of Let the Right One In. I saw it twice in the theaters and read the book, so I did not for the life of me understand what the need was for a remake. I heard great buzz on it out of TIFF, though, and so I wanted to give it a proper chance.

Here’s the thing. It totally works. The cinematography is gorgeous, period details are perfect (it’s set in March 1983), the kids are both great, and there are some particularly interesting directorial decisions. Reeves keeps the pacing gentle and resists the undoubted temptation to kick up the gore & the body count.

I said on Twitter that if I didn’t know the first existed I would have loved this one. But I know it well, so comparisons are inevitable. In the end, Let Me In is an effective exercise, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the story. In fact, it takes away from it, smoothing over ambiguities that brought complexity to the original. I just hope that it brings a new audience to the original adaptation and book, because they both deserve it.