Movie Review: “Buried”

Written by Josh Litman July 22, 2011

Do you like Ryan Reynolds? Do you think he’s a fine actor? Do you feel his talents have been underutilized in the past? Perhaps you think he simply doesn’t get enough screen time in his movies? Well don’t fret, because if you answered yes to any of the above, I can recommend a slightly obscure film just for you!

Buried stars a very on-his-game Ryan Reynolds (all by his lonesome self) in this high-concept-low-budget thriller(?) directed by Rodrigo Cortes about an American truck driver buried alive somewhere in the Iraqi desert.

The best thing about this film is that it never betrays its concept. The camera never cuts away to a team actively trying to rescue him, or his family restlessly waiting at home, or the government desperately trying to cover everything up. Be prepared to literally spend an hour and a half in a box with Ryan Reynolds. And believe it or not, he’s pretty good company! You would think a film like this would run out of steam fast, but it’s incredible how aggressively it works to keep your attention, especially with such a constrained premise.

Details. That is why this film succeeds. It’s the little things that count, like the assorted types of lighting in the film (e.g., Zippo lighter, flashlight, cell phone) and the way each one is used to maximum effect, both practically and visually. While the look of the film is certainly cramped and claustrophobic, it’s never boring. Cortes makes use of every angle he can and, combined with clever pacing, he somehow makes everything click.

When stuck in a box underground, small victories really resonate. Thankfully, Buried knows how to capitalize on them. The audience empathizes with Paul Conroy’s (Reynolds) plight completely; everything from his attempts to turn around in the box to a phone call getting through at the last minute keeps the viewer engaged.

Now, I’ve got to admit…I can’t say this film would have been as successful as it is without that trusty old cell phone. The phone is essentially a character in and of itself. And, of course, it’s dying. The phone gives Buried the sense of urgency it needs, and without it, the tension just wouldn’t be there (or at least as high). After all, the phone is pretty much the protagonist’s only link to the outside world. It’s that proverbial “…we’ve only got one shot at this, so let’s make it count!”

After gushing about the pros of this film, you might be mistaken in thinking that I found nothing wrong with it.  Truth be told, there were a couple substantial things holding it back from greatness: (1) the overstated political subtext, and (2) the ending. Generally, I’m not a fan of when films try to make political statements, but if they’re going to anyway, be subtle about it for crying out loud! I don’t want to be hammered over the head with political issues that overtake the (undoubtedly more enthralling) personal ones. So, if you’re like me and find the whole political pill a bit hard to swallow, Buried just might make you choke.

But it’s the ending that really pisses me off. I understand that at first glance there may have appeared to be only two possible endings to this thing, but the filmmakers really should have given it more thought. It saddens me that they took the easy way out. There was an “Option C” — I’m confident of it.

At the end of the day, while some unsubtle politics and a weak ending hurt this film, its originality and successful concept-execution make it a worthy recommendation. Rodrigo Cortes makes this claustrophobic nightmare come alive, while Ryan Reynolds sells it (rather realistically, I might add). It’s not a special effects extravaganza, but it doesn’t have to be. link checker . It’s intelligently shot and delivers the emotional wallop it sets out to. And the concept is really cool to boot.

They should make more films like this. And we should support them.

My Rating: 8/10

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About Josh Litman

Josh Litman

Director/producer/writer/actor/editor/cinematographer/musician/neuroscientist… Josh prides himself on being simultaneously awesome and modest. In addition to We Eat Films, Josh also produces his own work (films, writing) under the banner of Action Potential Productions and has his own website, too, where his handiwork can be viewed: www.actionpp.com -- or www.joshlitman.com (if you prefer).

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