Early Review: Buried
Buried features Ryan Reynolds, a Zippo, and a cell phone in a box for roughly 90 minutes. Along the way there are a few twists as to how and why he got there, but what you see is basically what you get. Yet even under all this duress Reynolds is still the same sarcastic smartass, wisecracking over the phone with the 911 operator who doesn’t take his situation seriously.
The film opens with a worthless and rather Hitchcockian opening credits sequence set to the film’s overpowering and ominous score before cutting into several minutes of absolute darkness. I saw the movie at an advanced screening with both Reynolds and director Rodrigo Cortes on hand for a post-show Q&A, and Cortes credited the score with helping to give the film that “big movie” feeling as opposed to being perceived as just some sort of minimalistic experimental art movie. Buried never achieves that, and the score simply takes away from the realism of it all.
Cortes felt the need to crank up the score any time tension begins to build, and it all just comes across as tedious as Reynolds is already yelling into the phone and understandably sweating profusely while sitting several feet deep in the Iraqi desert. You never get a good sense of how big or small this coffin is, and it isn’t until the film’s closing seconds that a real feeling of claustrophobia sets in. That shouldn’t take place in a movie with a geographic range of about eight feet. I do, however, admire the lighting in the film, all of which was achieved solely by the objects we see Reynolds holding in his hands.
Reynolds has some strong moments here, but I’m still waiting for him to take on the role of a fully fleshed-out character rather than just a derivative of his usual screen persona. Cortes also said that he wanted the film to take place in real-time (no lapse of time through editing), but there are moments of slow motion and fade-outs that suggest an obvious and indefinite passage of time.
Then there’s the one completely idiotic crane shot that moves up and away from Reynolds while he is still (supposedly) inside the box. If you’re trying to create a movie that thrives off the feeling of claustrophobia, why on Earth would you use a shot that creates the illusion of the coffin having a depth of about 10 feet? He can stand up and stretch his legs out in that fucking thing.
Buried is a commendable effort and I suppose the bevy of different shots help curb the boredom (they actually built a total of seven boxes for filming, each for different angles and with different capabilities), but if you’re going to make a film like this why not go all out and film in real-time with no noticeable cuts. Hitchcock tried it with Rope, but technology forced him to mask a cut about every ten minutes or so.