STUDIO: Lionsgate (BUY IT FROM CHUD.COM)
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
- DVD & Blu-ray
- Unearthing Buried: The Making of Buried
- Theatrical Trailers
Ryan Reynolds (star), Rodrigo Cortés (director), Chris Sparling (writer)
A dude is trapped in a coffin with only a few tools and his life depends on whether or not he can convince the government to pay a ransom to the terrorists who put him there.
After some of the best opening titles we’ve seen in years we meet Paul Conroy (Reynolds) in pitch blackness as he awakens to his horrific reality. A truck driver working on a contract in the Middle East, his group was attacked and now he’s in a box. He doesn’t know where and he doesn’t know why. He just knows it’s dark and tight and terrifying.
Before the pieces fall into place there’s just that darkness. And sound. Painful labored sound. Films that allow our imaginations to do the heavy lifting often win out because they’re wise to capitalize on the unlimited budget in our subconscious. Buried mines those recesses well, but two or three minutes feels like much longer when all you have is the sound of Ryan Reynolds breathing heavily. It’s the first of many situations in the movie where a little can go a long way but the filmmaker holds on too long and squanders the opportunity.
Before the plot really kicks in, Buried is at a disadvantage. We know the concept. We know the principals. That we’re watching indicates we’re along for the difficult ride. The first few minutes of the film become excruciating, first out of empathy for our protagonist and then out of our desire for them to get on with it. You’ve heard that some actors can read the phone book and be good and that may be true, but breathing heavy doesn’t carry the same pedigree outside of the adult film market.
Eventually we do get light and we do get exposition. It’s just a rough way to try and lure an audience in. Conroy has a lighter and a cell phone, and a few more items as he’s able to negotiate his rectangular prison. It’s in the first few panic induced moments of limited light, no frame of reference, and initial cell phone calls where Rodrigo Cortés is able to work some magic. Things that we all have to deal with that are minor annoyance in life carry massive significance to Conroy. Bad reception. Difficulty communicating with a voice on the other end of a phone line. A sense of urgency only one party understands. These are things we call can identify with but under a much different lens.
The middle of the film is pretty good. The director finds some interesting ways to keep the film from becoming inert without cheating too much. There’s no real organic way to achieve character development and there’s a surprising lack of Conroy talking to himself, so the man is pretty much a cypher aside from the rudimentary information we’re given and the limited conversation opportunities not built around his escape. It works almost well enough based on the concept’s legs Reynolds giving it everything he has.
There’s no real emotional connection possible to Paul Conroy. In films like Phone Booth, Frozen and other claustrophobic or nearly single location movies, there are more tools at their disposal to shade their leading characters. Buried has none of that. It has a great hook and the cred that it does actually stick to its premise without cutting to the surface or having flashbacks.
It’s not enough. Once the film actually tosses a snake into the coffin with Conroy all bets are off. This is a premise where each grain of sand that trickles in is an accessory to murder. Where a lack of food and drink assure certain death. There’s no need for a snake. There’s not need for anything. The concept’s enough. It also doesn’t help that the villain on their other end of the phone is difficult to understand at first and then when there is clean communication between Conroy and the terrorists trying to bilk the U.S. Government out of a few million bucks, there’s not enough actual menace. Yes, there is some violence and a few tense scenes but there’s no character in the film interesting enough to keep it from stagnating.
There are some good ideas here, and the film’s far from bad. It’s just not worthy of attention. It’s a late night channel surfing curiosity, not some intense sleeper that will connect on anything other than the superficial level. Reynolds’ Paul Conroy’s a man truly without a country and it’s riveting at times to see him go from trying to plead with strangers for help, negotiate political waters with people supposedly on his side, and square verbally against maniacs.
Ultimately though, Buried is just a nifty idea executed pretty well but a film that not only leaves the memory shortly after the big twist ending that doesn’t resonate, it’s one that wears out its welcome about halfway through.
But oh, what a short film this would have been.
KEEPER, RENTER, or AVOIDER?
Buried is the very definition of a renter. It’s ambitious and means well and Ryan Reynolds gives it his all. But it’s not worth owning unless this is the kind of sleeper type of film you like to foist on friends. If so, please don’t be friends with me.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars