I just got back from watching “Buried” in the cinema. The horror/thriller stars Ryan Reynolds as Paul; a working-class, cash-strapped American contract driver who wakes up buried alive in a cheap wooden casket. The last thing he remembers is his convoy being ambushed by Iraqi terrorists. On waking up, he doesn’t know why he's there or what's going on – it doesn’t help that he suffers from anxiety and panic, which he is on medication for.
The film started well enough, the credits alone tell you exactly what director, Rodrigo Cortes, was aiming for – a Hitchcock style thriller. He manages to stamp the premise of the film with a Hitchcock vibe, and this film would have worked brilliantly as one of Hitchcock’s shorts. The premise is solid, it’s not in Hitchcock’s league at all, but there is a similar vibe. The problem is, the premise is pretty much all we get – that initial shock – the one trick pony of someone being buried alive; though it has been achieved much better in films such as the superb “The Vanishing.”
Visually the film is done extremely well; after all, it manages to make a dark coffin seem sort of interesting for two hours with different film shots and lighting effects.
Ryan Reynolds acts his socks off; leaving his goofier comedic days behind him, he puts in a solid performance. Although, there are a few scenes of dialogue which are comedic, and dialogue which doesn’t fit. For example, when he’s calling to try and get help, as soon as one friend answers, instead of saying “I’m buried alive, I don’t have much time – quick get me this number.” He simply keeps cursing at her and demanding she gives him the telephone number - she hangs up. Reynolds (‘Blade Trinity’, ‘Waiting’, ‘Wolverine Origins’, and the upcoming ‘Green Lantern’) is all sweat-smeared and anxious as he begs and pleads into his one ray of hope - a cell phone; trying to figure out why he’s been buried alive, what his captors want, and how he can get out of the situation alive.
He finds it difficult and frustrating as he desperately battles his way through the horrors of voicemail, frosty operators and infuriating bureaucracy; something we can all relate to. Especially being put on hold and spoken down to by snooty operators’. The problem is, halfway through, we start to get frustrated as the film becomes tiresome. Another issue with the movie is that there are just too many coincidences, for example, no-one he calls seems to be home. Then, everyone he speaks to is rude and puts him on hold – even after he’s told them he’s buried alive!
The initial three quarters of an hour of “Buried” is pretty hard core stuff, director, Rodrigo Cortes manages to convey everything Reynolds character is feeling – terror, confusion, panic, mounting fear and frustration. It’s a shame then that the premise is all the movie really has, and the film can’t sustain itself on this alone for two hours; it simply frustrates and bores the audience.
One of the most amusing things is that Reynolds character has one of the nicest kidnappers ever, he has provided him with a canister of water, his anxiety medicine, a mobile phone (we're told and shown that the battery is low, but boy does Paul manage to make a lot of calls), a lighter, a torch, two green glow sticks, and a hand held camcorder.
This film could have been excellent if it had gone somewhere with the story, if it had gone anywhere with the story, but just like Paul, the story remains stagnant and boring. The audience soon tires of the claustrophobic atmosphere the director has created, and the dialogue provided by screenplay writer Chris Sparling just goes around in circles. The film is just so boring at the halfway through mark – it goes nowhere, and I found myself looking at my watch (never a good sign in a movie) and wishing something would happen. The plot holes are also ridiculous and far too convenient for anyone with half a brain.
The most powerful thing about this movie and the only thing to take away from it, is the political side of things. Obviously intended as a piercing comment about America's war in the Middle East, an allegory about asymmetrical warfare, a parable about politics. This basically says that America doesn’t care about the casualties of war and innocent people as long as the government look good to the public – and for this, the film should be applauded, because this is the films most powerful, frightening and hard hitting statement to the audience.
As the credits rolled, I’ve only once before heard so many people moan and curse about how awful a film was. The main issue with “Buried” was that it was dragged out far too long. One setting isn’t enough to sustain an entire movie if the rest of the film is relying on it, and Reynolds acting isn’t strong enough to keep me or my fellow audience interested, or even feeling any empathy for him towards the end. Especially when he’s kept his shirt on for the entire film; he is, after all known for his abs and his comedy one-liners. Neither are present.
In total, a film with a lot of promise but not much delivery, this could have done with being very heavily edited and made a lot shorter. A bold film-makers idea that unfortunately didn’t work in the long run, though parts of it did. This is a film with some very impressive moments and comments on society; it’s just not interesting enough to drive those points home, as it loses the audience’s interest far too quickly. Reynolds does the best he can do with the material he’s given, but he can’t convey the fear of an anxiety sufferer being buried alive at all! Worth a watch, but not a second glance.