2010, R, 95 minutes
Starring Ryan Reynolds. Produced by Rodrigo Cortes. Cinematography by Edward Grau. Editing by Rodrigo Cortes. Music by Victor Reyes. Written by Chris Sparling. Directed by Rodrigo Cortes.
The great thing about Buried is that this is a film that reminds me why sometimes independent filmmaking is the place to go for stories that liven and excite. The story is at once utterly simplistic and yet completely innovative: We open up on Paul Conroy (Reynolds), who awakens alive in a casket with only a few items logged inside with him… a flashlight that flickers on and off every few seconds, a Zippo lighter that is incredibly difficult to maintain and manage, a cell phone with draining battery, a small container of water and that’s about it. Here’s the kicker: The film never leaves the casket. I don’t feel that this is a spoiler since if you watch the trailer or if you read any interviews or any articles on the film this tidbit of information will likely be pretty prevalent, and honestly, while the idea just oozes with dramatic potential (and the film definitively utilizes that potential brilliantly), the film has much more interesting things to say and is an incredibly effective thriller despite its claustrophobic setting.
Of course, the problem about reviewing a movie like Buried is that the more you give away, the more you ultimately spoil, and in a movie so self-contained like this in terms of physicality and location, you definitely want to go in knowing as less as possible, given that you already know the movie is not leaving the casket. So I will be brief with this review, as to not reveal too much, and instead I will speak superlatives and go into detail at how much I utterly love and adore this piece of unbelievably fantastic filmmaking. I remember reading an interview with director Rodrigo Cortes, who makes his feature-film debut with Buried, and he talked about Alfred Hitchcock as an inspiration. That is quite evident from the opening titles, and the way the film is structured. If you’ve seen Hitchcock’s Lifeboator Rope or Strangers on a Train or even Vertigo, then you can be pretty sure how a movie such asBuried might unfold. The film oozes Hitchcock, both in inspiration and execution, but it amplifies things in such a manner that makes the events in the film so incredibly gripping and suspenseful despite the contained location. There are moments in the film where I was on the edge of my seat. It builds tension unlike any other film I’ve seen in a while, and while there are moments when the film quiets down, when it picks up, it really picks up.
One thing I need to talk about is the sole star in this movie that I hope receives the accolades and acclaim that he will so rightfully deserve: Ryan Reynolds. A lot of people dismiss this guy because he does a lot of films with the same cocky swagger, but he absolutely shatters those mannerisms and characteristic traits with his portrayal as Paul Conroy. Reynolds is the entire foundation, and if for some reason his performance was at all anything short of amazing, the entire film would collapse. Fortunately for the film and for the viewers, Reynolds is mesmerizing as Paul. While there are slight fragments of his trademark persona, they only come in piecemeal amounts and they are actually quite essential to the character. The film is so tense and nerve-wracking and the film literally puts Paul through the ringer that without moments of levity the audience might be slightly drained emotionally speaking, and it’s those twisted moments of humor that calls back to Hitchcock the most.
There’s really nothing much else I can say without ruining Buried, so all I’ll say is that if you haven’t seen this film, you are horribly missing out. This is what filmmaking is suppose to do: It’s suppose to achieve something rare and original and fresh. Watching Buried is hard. It’s not really a movie where you just simply sit down and watch, but something you must experience. The director, Rodrigo Cortes, literally brings you into the mindset of Paul, allowing you to share his desperation, his paranoia, but most importantly his willpower to survive. Where many films focus on so many characters that never feel fleshed out or real, Buried creates a living, breathing person with Paul, someone who you end up liking and you want to see survive. He feels like a full-fledged human being, and there are moments where you are squinting your eyes in horror, or yelling at the screen, telling Paul to do things, or wishing help would come and rescue Paul from his constant misery. It’s that type of involvement that makes Buried such an incredible film. You are with the character every step of the way, and it’s that rare experience that will likely shake you down to your core. It was minutes before I could stop shaking after witnessing the final frame, and the film will likely stay with me for days.
If you haven’t seen Buried, you are doing yourself a disservice. What are you waiting for? Go and somehow see the best film of 2010. Don’t let anything, or anyone, stop you. There are no excuses that are worthwhile or meaningful enough to allow you to not experience Buried. It’s one of those rare films that comes along and redefines what we know about films and how stories are told. It’s not just a gimmicky or clever premise, it’s a film that grabs you by the collar and never lets go. It will shake you down to your core and change you. It’s absolutely phenomenal filmmaking.