‘Buried’ Film Review

Paul Buckett, Writer

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If you’re looking for a fun filled, action packed, weekend-outing film that will make you grin in some parts, but grip your seat in others, Buried is not for you. Directed by Spanish filmmaker Rodrigo Cortes, Buried is a massively underappreciated psychological thriller that tells the story of American truck driver Paul Conroy, portrayed by critically acclaimed Ryan Reynolds, who wakes up sealed alive in a coffin with nothing but a flask, a pencil, a knife, a glow stick, a flashlight, an oxygen sucking lighter, and his cellphone, with its battery power slipping away with his sanity and dwindling hope of rescue.

Part of the reason the film is not more recognized by popular culture is simply that it is extremely difficult to watch in its entirety. Without resorting to gore or jump scares like other mainstream movies, the horror stems only from the extraordinary acting of Ryan Reynolds. Viewers have no choice but to severely feel every emotion he portrays, from glimpses of hope to the crushing despair of reality, making the task of finishing the movie with dry eyes, if finishing it at all, almost impossible. During filming, Reynolds noted, “There was points where I’m in there screaming that I’m running out of air, that I’m running out of time, and the crew kept ripping the lid off the coffin. They thought I was really in distress” (LA Times). The fact that even the film crew was concerned about his safety reiterates the sheer volume and capacity for reality of his acting, and directly creates the pit that remains lodged in viewers’ stomachs as they persevere through the tense narrative. Even Reynolds explained that he found it hard to watch the movie multiple times, further supporting the undeniable viscerality of the film.

The main technique used by Rodrigo Cortes to invoke the growing anxiety that is impossible to avoid when watching Buried was refusing to film anything or anywhere but the claustrophobic interior of the coffin, just spacious enough for the restless body of Reynolds. If Cortes had resorted to cutting to scenes outside of the coffin, such as the character’s wife, government negotiators, the Iraqi leader of the ambush, or even flashbacks, in order to let the audience exhale and make it a mainstream friendly film, its brilliance would be tarnished. Instead, viewers witness no natural light source for the entirety of the film, further contributing to the hour and thirty-five minute long panic attack shot in real time, capped off with an ending more heart wrenching than any shyamalan trope.  

Buried is not a particularly entertaining film by any means, but it is an extremely inventive work of art that defies the norms of filmmaking without diminishing its narrative value. If you can find it at your local video store, it is well worth the anxiety for the true cinefile.

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