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'Buried' Movie Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


'Buried' movie poster.
© Lionsgate
You've heard of one-room plays or even one-room movies, but Buried takes place in less than a room. It's set in a BOX. The entire film is shot inside a coffin, lit only by found items: a lighter, a flashlight, a cell phone, a glow stick. It's claustrophobic, unnerving and one of the most unique movie-watching experiences you'll ever encounter, but does that make it good?

The Plot

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a contractor who's been working in Iraq for nine moths as a truck driver delivering non-military supplies. One day, his convoy is attacked, he's knocked unconscious, and he wakes up bound and gagged inside a wooden coffin, buried alive.

With only a few items at his disposal -- a knife, cell phone, lighter, flashlight, flask, pen, glow stick -- Paul must figure a way out of his predicament. As each minute passes, his phone battery weakens, his air supply diminishes, and the sand above him seeps in more and more. But how can you get someone to rescue you when you don't know where you are?

The End Result

Buried is an exhausting movie. It's about as visceral a film as you'll ever experience. From the pitch blackness of the opening scene, in which you hear only Reynolds' breathing, you're crammed into the coffin right alongside him. You see every bead of sweat, feel every splinter, squint at every flicker of the lighter flame as you try to take in your surroundings. (It's a tribute to Buried's effectiveness that its 94-minute running time feels 10 or 15 minutes too long. It's just too intense for a traditional feature film length.)

Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés deserves a ton of credit for his virtuoso handling of such limited surroundings, not only conveying the discomfort and desperation of the situation, but also managing to visually keep things interesting for the viewer. You'd think there's only so many ways to shoot a guy lying in a coffin, but Cortés concocts a dazzling array of angles and perspectives -- "thinking outside of the box," as it were -- constantly shifting shots with a kinetic energy that mirrors the anxiety of the situation. In one particularly thrilling scene, he actually constructs an entire action sequence within the confines of the box. It's obvious from the opening credits that Cortés is aiming for a Hitchcockian style, and he pretty much nails it (granted, some might argue too much so).

Reynolds meanwhile is a literal one-man show, delivering on his charismatic everyman appeal to create a sympathetic character whose struggles are frustrating yet endearing and colored by flashes of subtle humor.

For the most part, though, Buried is deadly serious. It's frustrating, heartbreaking, at times even depressing. Writer Chris Sparling overcomes the potential for gimmickry by adding tremendous heft to the proceedings beyond what's going on inside the coffin. The story touches upon culture clashes, division of wealth, American foreign policy, corporate greed, the nature of terrorism, governmental red tape and more. At times, it risks becoming heavy-handed moralizing, but in the end, the raw emotion of the circumstances takes over, culminating in a powerhouse climax that will likely polarize audiences everywhere.

The Skinny

Ryan Reynolds in 'Buried'.

Ryan Reynolds in 'Buried'.

© Lionsgate
  • Acting: B (A strong, likable, emotional performance from Reynods.)
  • Direction: A- (An inventive, visceral ode to Hitchcock.)
  • Script: B- (Drags on a bit too long but evokes genuine emotion, from discomfort to anger to fear to sorrow.)
  • Gore/Effects: B- (No real gore, but the visual trickery and techniques help keep the film fresh.)
  • Overall: B (A strikingly original, taut, gripping thriller -- like Hitchcock with a modern technological and political edge.)

Buried is directed by John Rodrigo Cortés and is rated R by the MPAA for language and some violent content. Release dates: September 24, 2010 (limited), October 8, 2010 (wide).

Disclosure: The studio provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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