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Overall Rating

Awesome: 40%
Worth A Look42.5%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 17.5%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 10 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"Should've Stayed That Way"
2 stars

Please be aware when Rex Reed heaps praise on stuff like this and "Open Water" and "Frozen."

Is it really apt nowadays to still label a movie an "independent picture" just because it's got a low budget and unorthodox story premise when it just winds up containing much of the same inanity and creative bankruptcy as bigger-budgeted cinematic fare? Buried is more a concept than a story, seemingly daring in spending its entire ninety-minute running time within the confines of a buried coffin with a kidnapped human being alive inside. It's like a drawn-out version of the ending of the outstanding Dutch thriller Spoorloos, which chillingly concluded with its hero waking up inside a box underground and utterly helpless at doing anything about it; back in 1988 when it was released, cell phones hadn't come into widespread use, so there was logically nowhere else for the story to go -- to have done so would've been pointless. Here, that fantastic actor Ryan Reynolds, playing Paul Conroy, a contract truck-driver employee in Iraq for a Kellogg Brown & Root-like company, wakes up to find himself indeed buried in a wooden box with no earthly idea how he got there; slowly, he starts to remember that his convoy was attacked by some Iraqis in a small village he was passing through. With a Zippo lighter, he's able to see the predicament he's in; and with a cell phone he finds by his feet, he makes desperate calls to his employer, the FBI and State Department to apprise them of the situation, though not knowing where exactly he is doesn't help; and he starts getting calls from someone with a Middle Eastern voice who's demanding five-million dollars for his release, which won't happen because Paul isn't rich and the United States has a policy of not paying ransoms to terrorists. The lighter's flame keeps sucking up the limited oxygen, and the more he uses the phone the more the battery life dwindles; even with this, Paul still uses the lighter when he's dialing and talking even though the device's display illumination gives off plenty of light, and his calls to his mother and wife, while dramatically understandable, are rather odious in that the phone needs to retain power so the location can possibly be traced with a GPS tracking device. Rather than plausibly working the situation out in logistical terms, screenwriter Chris Sparling seems to be checking things off a standardized list: calls to bureaucrats and loved ones and the cold-shouldered employer; interludes of frenzied frustration; the revealing of an anxiety condition (how convenient, as if a non-anxiety-plagued person wouldn't be similarly distraught).

What could've been a truly nerve-frying experience is hampered not only by the negligent writing, but some of the directing by Rodrigo Cortez. While showing some agility in the juxtaposing, he occasionally cheats by giving us views of Paul from distances way outside the box, like a seven-foot overhead, which is doubly distracting being that Paul's been told he must not be buried that deep if a phone signal is getting through -- it also calls our attention to the movie as such. What was needed was the kind of sustained frenzy that, say, director George Miller gave the dynamite Nightmare at 20,000 Feet episode of the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie, which dealt with a frenzied passenger onboard a plane during a pounding thunderstorm; Miller respected the spatial logistics and used his camera like an active participant, keeping us smack-dab amid the action without so much as a millisecond's reprieve. This, of course, would be virtually impossible inside an even more enclosed place like a coffin; then again, this is the only way the movie's concept could've worked. That's why so many ho-hum elements are thrown in, including a snake that implausibly has managed to make its way inside through the solid boards, and nth-degree cynicism with Paul's uncaring employer going so far as to try to cheat his family out of a life-insurance payoff with a hokey coworker-sexual claim, though Stephen Tobolowky's voice is absolutely chilling in conveying amoral squalor. And in the tale's lowest point, there's an eye-rolling bit of the willful cutting off of a finger in a desperate attempt to give the proceedings more in the way of "variety." (And is it just me, or does the opening credits sequence, with the camera slowly traveling down in the ground accompanied by a lively music score, come off like a blatant rip-off of Speed's?) The acute editing, however, which Cortez was also responsible for, can't be faulted; and the lighting by Edward Grau is more than serviceable, especially when the light-blue illumination of the phone gives Paul's face an eerie, ghostly shimmer. But the movie's main plus is Reynolds, who miraculously stays "in the moment" throughout, registering just about every emotion in the book and doing so without any trace of artifice getting in the way between himself and the viewer. He never overacts, displays both a committed intelligence and accessible vulnerability, and darned if some understated humor doesn't come through when least expected. Reynolds is that rare actor who always rings true, is always interesting. He's absolutely first-rate in Buried, which, unfortunately, is nowhere deserving of his bravado.

The DVD doesn't offer up any special feaetures, but the transfer is rock-solid with some good channel separations.

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originally posted: 03/12/12 11:08:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2010 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2010 series, click here.

User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell tense & claustrophobic 4 stars
3/02/16 Charles Tatum Reynolds is excellent, and yes, this will make you claustrophobic 5 stars
3/12/12 John Wilson This was one of the best thrillers I've ever seen. 5 stars
1/22/11 Beverley M Sporck Interesting, different, good acting, and all I could think of is the creativity to make a f 5 stars
1/21/11 actiobn movie fan was everything 127 hours wasn,t =gripping captivating-frozen and open water in a coffin 5 stars
10/30/10 M.J. This movie was very interesting. I did think he'll be in the casket the whole time. 4 stars
10/29/10 Kim Kelly Even if I wasn't claustrophobic, Id be unnerved by Reynold's frightened performance. 4 stars
10/25/10 Ming It makes me sick watching this.... 2 stars
10/12/10 Ronald Holst I calustrphobic wathing this 4 stars
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  24-Sep-2010 (R)
  DVD: 18-Jan-2011

  29-Sep-2010 (15)

  07-Oct-2010 (MA)
  DVD: 18-Jan-2011

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