The Trouble with Quibbles: Will To Live

Today we take a look at two films that examine a basic driving force, the will to live, in very different ways. Never Let Me Go is a sci-fi drama about human clones looking for meaning, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, and Andrew Garfield. And Buried is a psychological thriller starring Ryan Reynolds as a man taken hostage and buried alive.

BP: So here are two more films that deal each deal with, in their own way, the… what did you call it?

AS: The will to live.

BP: Yes, the will to live. In Never Let Me Go it is about human clones made for the sole purpose of mining for organs and limbs, fated to be discarded once they have outgrown their usefulness.

AS: Right, in other words, The Island but not retarded.

BP: I liked The Island, but yeah, pretty much just like The Island.

AS: Ok, how about the dramatic take on The Island? Rather than action.

BP: But also more about emotion than the science.

AS: Right, dramatic.

BP: I liked this film okay, but it was very subdued… subsumed… some kind of sub-word.

AS: True. I was waiting for someone to open a door to find someone arranging matches.

BP: There was that scene! But instead of matches it was porno mags.

AS: Haha, I didn’t think about it like that. The collecting of buttons (tokens?) reminded me of arranging matches.

BP: I’m sure the drab and stark pacing was purposeful, the better to convey the emotion of the characters, but it really made an exciting and interesting concept rather boring.

AS: Yeah, it took several attempts for me to actually sit through the entire movie.

BP: But, my new BFF Andrew Garfield is very good and Carey Mulligan does a fine job with her plain yet expressive features.

AS: The cast is big part of what makes this movie enjoyable in spite of its faults.

BP: As good as Knightley is, I feel she is miscast.

AS: Really? I thought she was perfect as Ruth. Just snarky enough, then just remorseful enough. Are you sure that it wasn’t the fact that you’re not supposed to like Ruth that made you not like Knightley?

BP: No, I get that, and I applaud Keira for taking on unlikable roles as of late. But unlike Atonement, where she had reason for acting spiteful and maybe a bit harsh, the motivation here is almost nonexistent until the final reel. That’s not 100% her fault, but she is not the best actress to convey such a thing without clearer motivation.

AS: I thought her motivation was pretty clear the whole time, from the setup by the young Ruth.

BP: That part didn’t work on me so well. But yeah the acting helped to sustain the slow-motion plot.

AS: It’s a nice enough film, but with its glacial pace it feels more like you’re walking through an art gallery of landscape paintings and less like a movie.

BP: They just failed to get across the theme in an interesting manner. It’s a good theme, poorly executed, with some future oscar winners acting their butts off. Grade: C

AS: For a film about the will to live, there was a noticeable lack of life. But, it was nice to look at and some very fine acting. Grade: C+

BP: So, the other film with the similar theme executed completely differently is the one man show, Buried.

AS: Now, when I heard about this film back in the day (back when Will Smith was slated to star) I thought it sounded ridiculous. And I felt that way up until I saw the awesome Vertigo-like poster.

BP: It’s still a bit ridiculous, but the filmmakers, I think, know full well that it is, and they deliver a fun, if superficial, thriller.

AS: “Ya gotta have a gimmick.”

BP: I kind of wish it was more over the top.

AS: How?

BP: More in-line with the poster and opening credits. Bigger music. Bigger stakes. Just bigger.

AS: How do you make a movie about a guy stuck in a coffin bigger? You want to be outside the coffin?

BP: Oh, no. I like that we never leave.

AS: Ok, good. Me too.

BP: I don’t know what they should have done, but as is, it feels like it should have been a 30-minute short instead.

AS: Yeah, like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

BP: Right, exactly. The conceit is fun and done fun, but it is thin and stretched out a little too far.

AS: But Ryan Reynolds is good and makes it very watchable.

BP: Of course. He is good in the right material, and it’s not like the film is ever boring.

AS: I found it surprisingly engrossing for movie that takes place entirely in a coffin. I thought it was kinda perfect. Claustrophobic and frantic. It certainly had a lot more life than Never Let Me Go.

BP: I’d have to agree, but for as fun as it is, it isn’t something I’d watch twice.

AS: Yeah, after the first time it kinda loses something. But, considering that when I first heard about it I thought it was stupid and had no interest in seeing it, the fact that I enjoyed it at all was good enough for me.

BP: I can see that. I also like the “fuck you” ending, but when the movie was over it felt more than a little hollow. Like it was an exercise more than a movie. Grade: B

AS: Yeah, I’m gonna get hell for it, but I liked the ending too. In the end, Buried was livelier than Never Let Me Go, even if it was stretched a bit thin over an hour and a half. And I do think it would have worked better as an episode of The Twilight Zone, still it was a tense thrill ride from the word go. Grade: B

BP: Stop agreeing with me!

AS: Sorry about it. I disagreed about RED and Knight & Day.

BP: It was brilliantly nihilistic, if cheesy.

AS: I don’t believe in nihilism.

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