SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN: This morning I saw Rodrigo Cortes‘ Buried, the Ryan Reynolds trapped-in-a-large-coffin movie which has been shown at Sundance and was recently acquired by Lionsgate. I’m basically giving it an A for execution and a C-minus for story because I’m a nice guy. It really deserves an F because it jerks you around on a nail-bitten popcorn level (escape from a tight spot) with no intention of paying off on that level. Great filmmaking, shitty payoff = overall C grade, at best.
Ryan Reynolds in Rodrigo Cortes’ Buried.
All the critics having babies over this film are praising Cortes’ Hitchcock-like ingenuity in making an engrossing feature that takes place entirely in a small enclosed space. And they’re correct about this. Cortes is as inventive a filmmaker as Hitchcock was in making Lifeboat, if not more so. But these praising critics are deliberately ignoring how unsatisfying Buried is in terms of denying Joe Popcorn’s natural wishes while watching such a tale.
Knowing the basic premise, you may assume going in that Buried will be a harrowing mental ingenuity/physical feat/engineering movie about a guy managing to free himself from a large coffin-sized crate that’s been buried two or three feet underground. (There’s enough room in the crate for Reynolds to wriggle around and lean on his side and shift around, etc.) But what it is, really, is a darkly humorous socio-cultural message flick about selfishness and distraction — i.e., how everyone is too caught up in their own agenda to give a shit about a person who really needs help.
Reynolds’ character — a truck-driver contractor working in Iraq — manages to speak to several people on a cell phone that he’s found inside the crate. The prolonged joke is that each and every person he turns to for help (with the exception of his wife) tells him that they need him to address or answer their needs first before they”ll give him any assistance.
Boiled down, the movie is kind of a metaphor for dealing with tech support or any corporate or bureaucratic employee who specializes in driving complaining customers crazy. Everyone Reynolds speaks to patronizes him, tells him to calm down and speak slowly, asks stupid questions and in one way or another blows him off or fails to really engage and provide serious assistance.
Buried is going to be a bust with audiences once they see what it is. I felt aroused and stimulated here and there in a film-dweeb sense, but I felt pissed off and fucked with at the finish. Cortes has excellent chops and a great sense of style (the opening credits sequence is the best thing about Buried) and Reynolds may have delivered the most impressive performance of his career, but…well, I’ve said it.