BURIED Review

by     Posted 3 years, 303 days ago

Imagine I told you about a film that focused on a single actor buried alive inside a coffin for over 90 minutes as he fought to stay alive with just a lighter, a cell phone, and a few other items MacGyver might struggle to find useful. You might wonder if that film could really keep your interest. Luckily, Rodrigo Cortes’ Buried will not only keep your interest, but floor you with tension and intrigue, ultimately making your heart race as if you were in the shoes of Paul Conroy (a brilliant Ryan Reynolds) as he fights to stay alive. This dead simple premise is an excellent example of how precise execution can elevate a film far beyond the confines of the wooden box the film takes place in. Join me after the break for my full review of Conroy’s struggle for survival.

buried-movie-posterWe open with Paul Conroy, a civilian truck driver working in Iraq, already buried alive, with very little recollection of what has happened. As he manages to untangle himself from the bindings on his hands and mouth, he realizes that his cries for help are largely unanswered and he resorts to an alternative method. However, what seems like a simple solution of just calling from his cell phone turns into a maddening experiment of patience as the only people he can get a hold of are in the U.S., far away from him. The ever vigilant Conroy never gives up though, but what he uncovers is a twisted reality that shakes him to his very core. The more he digs up, the deeper his hole gets, and before he knows it his limited oxygen isn’t the only danger he has to overcome.

Providing the guidance to make this compressed study of loneliness is director Rodrigo Cortes, who shows an uncanny ability to transport the audience from the theater to the coffin with Conroy. Small budget films seem to be increasingly common, but when they are executed as well as Buried, you will forget that factoid 15 minutes in. This isn’t “found-footage” or handheld camera work that makes some viewers want to hurl. Professionally shot, lit, and fully realized, this film didn’t crimp on the budget, but when your film takes place inside a single coffin for over 90 minutes, you save some green. However, despite the close quarters, the excellent script by Chris Sparling manages to reach far beyond our main characters actions on the screen. In an ever-increasing world of electronics, how close are we to those we love? Is it a solution or a buffer between real, quality interactions? That is just one of the various themes that Sparling plays on, which could leave you dazed as you watch the credits roll.

Perhaps even better than the story is the camera work on Buried, which has to be nominated for something. The brilliant editing by Cortes coupled with the impossible shots from cinematographer Eduard Grau sell the illusion incredibly well. There is a scene in which the camera spins 360 degrees inside the coffin that is mind-boggling, and there are several pull-away views that will make you gasp. Additionally, the light source for most of the film is Conroy’s cell phone or lighter, which results in making the claustrophobic elements particularly cringe-worthy. How they managed to shoot the film must have been a lesson all its own in patience and perseverance, especially for Ryan Reynolds.

buried_movie_poster_01Let’s be honest; if you had to stare at someone for over 90 minutes, Reynolds isn’t a bad choice. The fact that the man can act incredibly well is a blessing that Cortes and crew exploit to the fullest extent. Reynolds does his own action, which includes pounding on the coffin walls and a jaw-dropping maneuver within the coffin itself; contortionist isn’t in Reynolds’ bio, but we might want to add it after this film. The other key component to Reynolds’ performance is his brilliant comedic quality. Buried is tightly wound, but they provide gasps of comic relief that likely keeps the audience from having panic attacks. Additionally, Conroy is not made out to be a perfect little angel that we root for because he is so sympathetic. He has flaws and has obviously infuriated some of those close to him. He snaps and has a quick temper, but whether that is a result of being, you know, buried alive isn’t completely explored; we are definitely left with the notion that this isn’t new territory for him, though.

All of these things combine in Buried for an incredibly unique experience unlike anything you have seen before. Sure you have heard that line before, but when was the last time you watched a film that focused on a single person, for over 90 minutes, within the sole confines of a coffin. Hell, when was the last time you watched anything that focused on a single person for over 90 minutes, no matter the confines. Add to the unique experience a tragically potent script, acting that goes beyond selling the gimmick, and production qualities fit for a wizard, and we have Buried, one of the must-see films of 2010.

Final score: A

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  • Mikey “The Riot”

    when was the last time i saw anything like this?… I believe I saw Colin Ferrel trapped inside a Phone Booth by a crazed sniper for 90 minutes… amazing film. Looking forward to seeing Buried though, looks good and this review only makes me want to see it more. Reynolds is the man

    • http://twitter.com/cablebfg Bill Graham

      That film lost focus of Ferrel for large portions of the film. When I say this is just Reynolds, for 90 minutes, I mean, it is JUST Reynolds. Which is incredibly brave but also rewarding.

  • InfiniteMonkey

    Can’t wait to see this now!

  • Angeladildine

    Great review, Bill! Good to meet you, too. Hopefully I’ll be seeing you around Austin more!

    • http://twitter.com/cablebfg Bill Graham

      Thanks Angela! And it was great meeting you and sharing the experience of the round table with Rodrigo. Let me know if you get a press badge, because I would definitely run into you then.

  • Zacharybryan

    i liked the fim but the ending spoiled the film

    • Alex1downward

      The ending was what made the film

      • Lawrance

        No, Zacharybryan is so right. The ending screwed the whole movie. Made me wish I had not even picked the thing up.

  • http://www.gameshed.com/Scary-Games/ Scary

    I was very surprised at how intense this film was. After all, it’s just Reynolds in a coffin but there’s a few scenes where I was covering my mouth and going, “Oh boy this isn’t going to end well.” Director Rodrigo Cortez has a good eye on creating some extremely tense moments with some tight camera work.

  • Chef BritD.

    Reynolds is a great actor and this movie proves it. From the first 3 seconds I was into it. Very intense all the way through, a must see for sure!

  • Andrea

    I’m from the Philippines and I just watched it last night. I loved it. Ryan Reynolds did a good job. Even if it was only in one setting, it was really good and intense. I watched it 4 of my friends, and they hated it, because it was in one setting. I was the only one who liked it. Great review, by the way!

    • http://twitter.com/cablebfg Bill Graham

      I’m sad to hear that your 4 friends didn’t like the film. Glad you enjoyed it though. I think it was surprisingly well done. This could have easily been crap or just mediocre. But it is much better than that. And thanks for the kind words.

  • n0rm0

    ok ok let me get 1 thing straight, how many screw ups do they actually wana put in a movie? i really dont know where to begin.
    SORRY FOR THOSE WHO HAVNT SEEN IT BUT THIS MUST BE PUT OUT IN THE OPEN
    for a start, how realistic is this 2 b honest… the kidnapper gives this guy a phone, “alchohol”, anxiety tablet, 2 glowstick, a torch which doesnt work and a lighter. Are you serious? what kind of person does that?
    ok now if the box had a hole in it for a snake to get in, it cant be that strong because it wasnt there to begin with
    number 2… the guy fully takes plenty of these anxiety tablets along with this alchohol which is strong enough to light a big enough fire to kill a snake and he didnt even trip out… by rights he should of been close to dead there
    WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE 2ND GLOWSTICK? im not sure because what i remember is 1 of the glowsticks getting broken and then 2nd one just disappeared
    now with the phone business, the dude on the other side of the phone constantly told John to turn the phone off silent to keep battery charged up enough yet he kept it on for like 5 mins of the movie and changed it back. The phone never died… wats the point in that? waste of time if you ask me
    i could go on forever about the mistakes made in this movie but i think i have enlightened viewers enough that this movie isnt like the reviews at all… waste of money

  • Tomazi

    @n0rm0

    What a load of crap. One glow stick broke, another ran out.

    The phone battery point is completely erroneous.

    The kidnapper gave him all of that so that he was in a position to find the money.

    Learn some grammar / spelling.

    So yeah, I though that this film was excellent. Not many films can get my heart racing as I lie in bed.

  • Don Stubbs

    Look, I love a good story as much as the next film-goer, but this is the stupidest movie I’ve seen in my life. And I mean stupid. I refuse to believe there’s anyone on this planet as illiterate and inept as the character Reynolds portrays. The project probably looked good on paper during development. Too bad no one asked any serious questions before committing it to film.

    Why in the world would anyone buried alive continue a series of conversations with the kidnapper by cellphone? “Stop calling me! I’m not talking to you until you get me out!” Trapped dude could figure out how to change the phone’s language preference, but not how to block calls? How about just not answering?

    What human being does NOT understand that, if buried alive in a very small space, burning what little air is in there with you is NOT a good idea? I guess it’s a damned good thing there was a secret, invisible tube somewhere in the coffin allowing all the oxygen to flow in, keeping that Zippo burning through most of the movie.

    So you’re buried alive, trapped underground in a coffin. Your HR Director calls and starts asking a bunch of questions about your employment. C’mon, by the third question I had it figured out and was yelling at trapped dude to HANG UP!! Don’t know about you, but if I was buried alive and my boss fired me on the telephone, I’d tell him, “Listen here dickface, I have a video function on this phone. You fire me now and I’m making a video telling everyone what you did, then I’m sending THAT to the New York Times.”

    In an attempt at what I can only assume is to disprove the premise that being buried alive is intense enough, the evil, slithering, poisonous black snake is introduced into the box. But as soon as trapped dude started the fire to get rid of it I thought, “Man you just burned up all your air.” Apparently not. That secret oxygen supply keeps trapped dude alive.

    And finally, the ending was just so predictable that I felt absolutely let down.

    Don’t waste your time or your money on this film. You’ll be sadly disappointed and probably a little angry at yourself for being duped.

  • yomama

    @donstubs….u disappoint me my friend. obviously you are a fan of over rated movies that have the most obvious out come and no offence, but u should expand your genres. i can tell u been watching to many chick flicks. you also obviously never saw the meaning behind this movie, the movie was to show what people did to other people in situations such as this. I.G the boss firing the dude in the coffin. Have you ever heard of the play called death of a sales man? apparently not or you wouldn’t be saying such stupid responses. and yes this movie may have had some fake attachments to it, but what i dont understand is…how are u bashing this movie so bad when you should be bashing Hollywood movies with cars blowing up by hitting a sidewalks. this movie was to tell people about the harsh realities of life and what people really do to try and save there own hides and keep their “money”. i could probably come up with at least 10 more things for you to broaden your look on other movies besides the norm. the last thing i am going to say, and this one i actually am pissed at, is how you right dont waste your time and money on this film. reading from past descriptions of yours you dont no how to take anyone else’s views but your own. theres about a ratio of 7:1 likes to dislikes on this page and your telling people not to watch it? pay attention bud and stop writing comments like this that are directed to people to try and not watch this movie, its very disrespectful. i no that everyone has there own opinions on the movie and you can write what ever you want about it, its ur right and i aint saying its not, but just think when you write shit like this…people may hate you..and wish you get buried in a coffin alive.

  • Thomas

    Okay people make fun of me all you want but I need help on this. Why did the British guy say that Mark White had been rescued but when he and his convoy were on their way, the found Mark White??? Please help. thomas_purcell2000@yahoo.com

  • Danny

    If you like a very bad ending then you will love this movie. Very depressing & hated it worth a passion!!!

  • M

    @Don Stubbs

    He actually does say to the British guy something like, “What about my Zippo? Is it going to burn up all of my oxygen? It’s just so dark in here without it…”

    @n0rm0

    The “mistakes” you listed are either incorrect or are easy to figure out if you have half a brain.

    @ Thomas

    The British guy lied, they never saved Mark White. The people who told him they could lead him to an American that had been buried alive led them to Mark White’s body.

  • Trudy Mills

    I thought this film was awesome and was Crying towards the end, esp with the wife bit…very good film well acted Ryan R was brilliant,well worth a watch considering all the usual dribble they knock out these days !…

  • Juggalotus

    Just saw this movie again on tv. Still gets me everytime. U know shit like that happens over there. Maybe not the exact scenario or what have u, but crazy shit that terrorists do to better themselves. Laugh and bash all u want, but im gonna break down at the end EVERYTIME I watch this movie…they made it seem like he was about to get rescued…but no. the guy was led to a different burial site with a dead guy. That was SOOOOOO f cked up. In a way, they chose right to have him die. In places like that, there’s not very many happy endings. Same as this movie.

  • Denny

    So, all I wanted to do was type a quick rant about the movie. I ended up typing a movie spoiler about all the things Paul could have done to escape and other details I noticed from watching the movie. If don’t like movie spoilers stop reading now!!

    At the beginning of the movie he frees his hands from the rope with the sharp end of a nail poking through the wood. Maybe he could have pushed the nail back through the wood by slamming the liquor flask against the nail tip. Or holding both ends of the knife handle and slam that against the nail to push it back.

    How was the snake able to crawl out of the hole in the box being that the grave was supposed to be completely filled in?

    The booming and rumbling started and broke one of the boards of the coffin in half allowing sand to start rushing in. After all the booming and shaking stopped I started yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?! GET OUT!! YOU’RE GONNA DIE IN THE BOX!! YOU SHOULD DIE TRYING TO GET OUT!!” With one board broken, the adreniline pumping and going primal ape-shit it’s likely he would’ve broke another board to get up on his knees and start pushing sand out of the way.

    From looking at different scenes I saw the coffin is 4 boards tall and 6 boards wide. I’m guessing the width of the planks for the coffin are about 5-6 inches wide. Also based on how easy it is for Paul to roll over and get up on his arms I’m guessing the coffin is somewhere between 20-24 inches deep and approximately 30 inches wide.

    I’m thinking he must not of been buried that deep. Like Dan Brenner from the State Dept said he was probably buried by some average person desperate for money. Although it could have been terrorists being they killed that lady and sent Paul the video via the cell phone. Nonetheless, the captors probably only had shovels to dig a hole to bury him. Being that they’re hoping to collect ransom they’re not going to dig a traditional 6 foot deep grave only to have to move all that sand again when the ransom is paid.

    They probably dug the grave no more than 4-5 feet deep. In which case even if only two boards were partially broken he probably could have simply moved enough sand out of the way by flailing his arms about wildly. All he had to do was to move enough sand out of the way to create an air hole to the surface. Than quickly reasses the situation from there. With one broken board and possibly being able to get a hold of another to break and the use of his hands, legs and pocket knife I think it is highly “Plausible” he could have escaped.

    This movie left me depressed for two reasons:
    1) Because he probably could have escaped. Even within the last several seconds before he lost all room to move he might have been able to move the broken board and somehow broke another, but he simply didn’t try because he believe he would be rescued.

    2) After becoming so engrossed in his situation and feeling the tension building right to the end it was a huge let down that all I could do was watch him suffocate between the sand and boards. (Which by the way if you notice his face is getting pushed upward toward the top of the coffin as the sand fills. Sand doesn’t work like water, you don’t float to the top, and the sand couldn’t be leaking upward through the bottom which would mean the coffin was sinking in something like quicksand, which is was not cause the sand was falling from the top of the box.)

    All the circumstances need to be recreated from the scenes in the movie. The hardest thing to duplicate would be the depth of the grave because we are never told how deep it is. I believe this could be accurately tested for accuracy by Mythbusters and Criss Angel on Mindfreak. Yes I know Criss is an Illusionist/Magician, but he has the experience, resources, and skills to duplicate the scenario.

    The only way someone could keep me from trying to escape would be to place me in a solid welded box or some other solid metal cage that didn’t have any sort of hinge or other weak spots that could be exploited. I’m creative, can think clear and quick under pressure, good with hand and power tools, and the only way I would quit fighting is if I was dead.

  • Lawrance

    That was a HORRIBLE movie. I mean, what the F*** is wrong with Rodrigo Cortes? He couldn’t come up with a good ending, so he decided to squash the man and the movie.

    Don’t waste your time. They set you up for the “big rescue” and then kill the guy anyway. Like I needed to spend 90 minutes watching a good actor get totally screwed with the final script.

  • samantha

    i saw this movie over the weekend and its ingraved in my mind its the only thing i can think about i cried like a baby i cant believe he died it was a brilliant movie but i would not reccomend it because its just to sad wen it went off i was frozen looking at the tv screen for ten mins

  • Tony

    I thought this movie was a triumph in directing and tension, and a total failure in terms of story.

    There’s no way you can dispute how well crafted the “buried” experience is. The direction, impossible camera angles, and acting were fantastic. Everyone here has already covered this so I’ll leave it at that.

    In terms of the story though, what was the point? I don’t need a happy ending for a story. I love movies when you’re left feeling like you got kicked in the gut (“Requiem for a Dream” anyone?). But those movies that do this well get to that point out of some kind of conscious, willing behavior that leads to it. The characters make decisions that lead to awful consequences. If this isn’t the case, you can still craft a good story around the horrific event teaching the victim something, or at the very least the audience. But what was to be learned here? He was a relatively good guy, has a family he loves who loves him back, has family squabbles (who doesn’t?), and works hard to do right by his family. He didn’t have an epiphany of any kind, nor did any other character in the movie. Everyone is left largely as they started, except he’s dead and his family is broke.

    So what’s the lesson? Don’t got to the middle east on contract work? Don’t get too familiar with co-workers of the opposite sex? Are these really meaningful driving reasons for the circumstances of this movie? They aren’t for me but it apparently worked for most. I mean, the firing scene was ridiculous. That was nothing more than torture porn on the level of “Saw”ing one’s own foot off… oh wait, that’s right, he did have to saw off a part of his body too. It was too much with no pay off. And by pay off I don’t mean happy ending, I mean some sort of redeeming quality to the movie. This isn’t “Funny Games” where the lack of that redeeming quality is the point. It was just a brutal, tension ridden 90 minutes that went just about nowhere story-wise.

    On a final note, the best I can come up with to salvage the story is that this was a commentary on the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality we have about those abroad and in the military. The cacophony of apathetic phone calls from all but his wife and Brenner I think get this across pretty distinctly. Even if that was the purpose, though, I just don’t feel they hit the mark.

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