Ryan Reynolds took a risky move starring in a film where he’s the only character and he’s trapped in a coffin for 95 minutes. Colin Farrell has proven that it’s not always the best idea to be stuck in one location for a long time in the ho-hum thriller Phone Booth. But this movie works surprisingly well, proving that Mr. Reynolds has some acting chops in him after all. Now, if only he’d just stop making all those lazy action films and do some more grounded (pun not intended) work like this, then we’d all be better for it. This man is a legitimate actor!
Have you ever seen the movie The Deer Hunter? While mentioning that Best Picture winner about Vietnam in reference to director Rodrigo Cortes’ film about being buried alive may seem a strange way to start a discussion, there’s one similarity that I’d like to bring up -- their endings. Now, I’m not saying that their endings are similar or anything like that, because they couldn’t be further apart. But with both films, I can honestly say that I was willing to brush them off as boring and overrated until I saw those final moments. They made both experiences entirely worth the watch. Seriously, this film has one of the most gripping and harrowing endings I can remember in recent memory (though the song that plays during the end credits may be a little off-kilter).
The thing is, though, to get to that stunning ending, it’s going to take a lot of patience. The story in Buried, believe it or not, takes place entirely within the coffin. There’s no back story (or at least none that’s told outside of the coffin), no other onscreen characters besides Reynolds, and no real space to catch a breather from the claustrophobic setting. Which I guess was the intention, right?
Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a truck driver who’s working in Iraq and winds up getting captured and buried alive. We don’t really know why he’s been buried at the onset, but the movie unveils itself through a series of phone calls from the coffin. Similar to Tom Hanks in Cast Away, Reynolds' only companions aren’t human at all, but rather a cell phone, some glowsticks, a flash light, a knife, a lighter, and a flask. Oh, and a snake, but that’s much later in the film when it really starts to get moving. That said, these items really start to become a part of the overall storyline just as much as Reynolds himself. We sit there and start thinking, “Hey, don’t use the lighter for too long, it’s taking up your air. But no, no, no, don’t use your cell phone for light, you only have a limited battery supply!” Seriously, this is probably the first movie I’ve ever seen where I actually cared about the battery life of a cell phone. It’s unbelievable and incredibly modern. With most films that I watch that are really modern like this, I often wonder how they would be done if they were made 20 or 30 years ago. Buried would have been impossible to make, as the cell phone is practically a supporting actor. It’s amazing.
The film is also incredibly minimalistic, but this approach might not be for everyone. My girlfriend, for instance, kept looking at her phone, and I did, too. I couldn’t help it. There are stretches where all we get is darkness and Reynolds’ harried breathing. And you want to know what’s really strange about this? I actually think that this film, as minimalistic as it is, would be better seen on the big screen. Sure, it looks pretty good on Blu-Ray, but there’s a big difference between hearing a man dying, and hearing a man dying, listening to him give up hope in just the way he sucks in air. And that’s where this movie really shines, especially on its second viewing. Watching it for the first time, you’re constantly wondering, will he live, or won’t he? But by the time you find out that answer, it only enhances the experience of watching it again. It’s like the anti-Shyamalan picture...post-Unbreakable, of course.
If there’s one complaint that I have with this film, it’s that I feel it could have been shortened by 10 or 15 minutes. But that’s saying a lot for a movie that only has one setting and character. At least give the movie a watch if you’re skeptical about it. Come for the ending, but stay for the incredible acting and storyline. It’s unlike anything else you’ve ever seen before, and that’s a good thing.
I don’t know what I was really expecting with a movie like this, but the special features are rather brief. Included on this disc are two trailers -- one a teaser, which is really well done, and the other the actual theatrical trailer, which is basically just a series of critics lavishing praise upon it. The one other interesting feature on this disc is the short doc, “Unearthing Buried: The Making of Buried.” It talks about how they filmed this modern masterpiece in only 17 days. Seventeen days sounds like a short period of time, and it is, but just think about Million Dollar Baby. Clint Eastwood filmed that in only 37 days. But let’s not compare apples and oranges here. The short doc showcases the multiple coffins that were used for different purposes, so that’s interesting. Other than that, there’s not much else to see.
Overall, the special features on this disc are okay, but there aren’t any deleted scenes or commentary like I would have wanted. It’s not worth the price of admission, but the movie more than makes up for it.