Buried: Notes from the Underground

The new film ‘Buried’, opening Friday, begins as truck driver Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up after his convoy in Iraq has been attacked. He doesn’t wake up in a nice clean hospital bed or his familiar home with his wife doting on him. Nope, he wakes up in a coffin buried deep underground with only a few items including a small flask, a Zippo, and a cell phone. Paul struggles to free himself from his (potential) grave as time and his air supply runs out.

What it boils down to is one big metaphor for bad customer service. Much like George Romero used a plague of zombies in a mall to demonstrate the dangers of mindless consumption in ‘Day of the Dead’, writer/director Rodrigo Cortes uses Ryan Reynolds trapped in a box with only a cell phone to save him to express the helpless feeling that bubbles up in the face of terrible customer service. Everyone who Reynolds calls, including 911, the FBI, and the American embassy, is dumbfounded on how to help him. They ask him frustratingly unrelated questions (“What’s your social security number?” What difference does that make- he’s buried alive!), are flat-out rude to him, transfer his call to voice mail, or put him on hold. Even when he calls his own wife, again and again, to tell her possibly one last time that he loves her, the call go directly to her voice mail message.

I realize this is the point in the review where I’m supposed to tell you if I loved it or hated it but I’m having a hard time articulating this one. On the one hand, there’s nothing really wrong with this movie. It’s beautifully acted by Reynolds, completely realistic, different than anything else that I’ve ever seen, and emotionally jarring. In theory, all that should make for a good, if not great, movie.

On the other hand, it is Ryan Reynolds in a box for 95 minutes (if you’re waiting for a flashback scene to explain why he’s in the make-shift coffin, don’t. It’s not coming). It’s claustrophobic, it’s tense, it’s depressing, it’s frustrating. The film does an incredible job putting you in the moment and keeping you there, but is it really a moment that you want to be in? Not me, thanks. I’m not saying an intensely serious or miserably poignant film can’t be entertaining- it absolutely can be- but I wasn’t entertained by ‘Buried’. It’s going to take a very particular person to really relish and love this film. Who would that be? My first guess would be someone with a pocketful of lithium.

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