Buried is a film that not everyone is going to like, but also one that everyone has the potential to enjoy. It’s a film that, no matter how well it is described to you, what genres of films you like best, or any other factors, you won’t be able to gauge whether or not you will like or appreciate this film. As a matter of fact, the only thing I can do in writing a review about it is to inform you of what it has to offer. Watching it is the only sure way to know if you will enjoy it. This isn’t one that you can just look at and make that decision, or at least, that’s my belief.
The film stars Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, a man who wakes up in a coffin buried a few feet underground. He had been working as a truck driver, delivering random items to citizens of Iraq, when his convoy was attacked and he was captured. At his disposal, he has a lighter and a cell phone that has about half of its battery life left. He is called by the people who captured him, and they tell him that he has a couple of hours to secure $5 million, or he will be left to die in this coffin.
Now that is what I call an interesting premise, although it doesn’t start out all that exciting. The first twenty or so minutes of Buried are actually fairly boring. There isn’t all that much tension, and I can see how this portion of the film could turn people away. At this point, if you are watching it, stay with it, because it gets a lot better. The first part of the film is just setting up the plot, allowing us to learn more about the situation that Paul finds himself in. Things aren’t dire yet, and because of this, it isn’t all that thrilling.
However, once everything is set-up, things start to go wrong. Most of these issues stem from the people who Paul tries to phone, in that they either don’t take him seriously, aren’t there at all, or are even more incompetent than he turns out to be. I was laughing a lot when I shouldn’t have been, just because of how the people he phones act when they’re told that he could die any moment.
We learn that the United States government won’t pay the ransom because they refuse to negotiate with terrorists. Paul feels that he’s being deserted by his own country, which in a way is true. But it doesn’t really seem like anyone is giving Paul the respect that he believes that he deserves. In his mind, he’s being treated like Cargo by the terrorists, and like stolen merchandise by his own country. Here is a man who, in about an hour of his life, is completely broken by the realization that he isn’t all that important to anyone. Even his wife won’t answer her cell phone. Does he even have a reason to continue living?
Well, obviously he does. If he just gave up, we wouldn’t have much of a film here, would we? His reason to live comes in the form of Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson), the leader of a hostage rescue team. He’s calmed by this voice, and is told that they’re trying to rescue him. It’s after first talking to Brenner, I think, that we begin to realize how perilous Paul’s situation really is.
There are a bunch of things that go wrong throughout the film. A snake gets involved, the lights start to go out, Paul can’t breathe, he lights some of the wooden coffin on fire, sand starts filling the casket — there are a whole host of reasons to be fearful of Paul’s potential death. All of these, and the fact that it seems nearly impossible to actually get someone helpful on the phone, gives you an incredibly intense film. I have no doubt in my mind that Buried is a very thrilling film, one that plays to your fears, and then throws you for a loop. Think of something bad that could happen, and it probably will.
Unfortunately, that leads to some predictability with the plot. If something starts to actually look positive, it won’t be. Everything that can go wrong, will, and this means that there isn’t a joyous moment to be had. Part of the issues are started just because Paul isn’t all that good at dealing with stressful situations. He often makes poor judgment calls, but still somehow finds the nerve to insult or belittle the people on the other side of the telephone, just like some people do, (and most want to), with telemarketers. While these points made me laugh, they didn’t make much sense considering his life’s on the line.
Make no mistake, Buried is not a film that is all that pleasant to watch. There are points when you’ll want to turn away, parts that will make you squirm, and times when you’ll be gasping for breath more than Paul has to. It’s certainly not an easy watch, and is one that I wasn’t initially sure how to react to after it finished. I also found the ending brilliant, although I can see how some people would dislike it.
It’s not a perfect film, but Buried is an incredibly intense thriller that kept me interested and engaged after the plot got going. Our lead character, despite making stupid decisions, is one that is worthy of our empathy, and this makes his incredibly dire situation something that we care about. I can’t tell you if you’ll like or appreciate this film, because it’s one that’s polarizing and crowd-splitting. Just watch it and decide for yourself, but if you want just my opinion, I appreciated it. “Liking” it would require a feeling of sadism that just isn’t in me.