Buried Review

(1.5 STARS)

I’ve made my love for 127 Hours plain enough around here, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Buried was pretty high on my most-anticipated list. After sitting through Rodrigo Cortes’ film, however, I can say the two bear little resemblance. Besides the obvious “lone man trapped and fighting for his life” stuff, these are two vastly different experiences. Where 127 Hours is transcendent and emotionally satisfying, Buried is a cruel cheat. I wasn’t totally with it in the beginning, but I found it somewhat compelling—until the end, that is. It’s a disgusting way to end a 90-minute investment, and it just spoiled everything that was good about what came before it. What a waste.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) works for an independent contractor in Iraq as a trucker. One day, his convoy is attacked, and he finds himself tied up and buried alive. After the initial feeling of panic, Paul realizes he has been left with a lighter and a cell phone, and he begins contacting various authorities to see if they can locate and rescue him.

Giving away too much of the plot would be unfair, though I’d love to shout out the film’s ending and implore you not to waste your time because of it. Buried is the ultimate exercise in malicious misdirection. There’s little need to end things the way Cortes and screenwriter Chris Sparling do, other than to elicit a sense of shock. On that front, they do a good job, but the shock isn’t a clever or satisfying one.

Besides the awful ending, however, Buried is littered with problems. The first thirty minutes or so are sleep-inducing, with Paul simply making phone call after phone call to clueless bureaucrat after clueless bureaucrat. If I want to hear some dopes on the phone, I’ll call my credit card or cable company. I don’t want to watch this in a movie; It’s silly.

The cinematography, which I’ve seen lauded by others, was quite obtrusive, in my opinion. Some disbelief is certainly necessary to get through this film, and I was willing to follow it a certain distance. But when camera pans out further and further from Paul—on more than one occasion, mind you—I have to draw the line. If this guy is buried underground, where’s the room for the camera to move like that? It’s fine to move it, if that’s the kind of film you’re making, but Buried sets itself up as a “you are there with this guy” sort of thing, and it decides to abandon that visual approach when it best suits the film.

All that being said, I did think Ryan Reynolds gave a great performance. Like James Franco in 127, he’s on his own (with just a few actors on the phone to work off of). It’s a performance that gets under your skin because of the predicament this man is in, and though Reynolds doesn’t quite shed his cocky image, he does manage to hold your attention throughout. It’s good stuff.

But other than a great lead performance (and a cool opening title sequence), Buried is sloppy filmmaking. It twists and turns for no real reason, and its gritty, unsettling, you-are-there way of presenting things is a little played out by the end of 90 minutes. I wanted to like it; I really did. And though I expect I’m in the minority on this one, I have to say that Buried will likely go down as one of the biggest disappointments of 2010.

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