If Ryan Reynolds hadn’t been attached to this it no doubt would never have been made, and this steaming pile of crap really shouldn’t have. Rarely in my cinema going life have I ever been so infuriated by a 90 minute experience, having left feeling like my time had been utterly and completely wasted but for experiencing the sight of Reynolds’ arms (and what arms!). The travesty is that ‘Buried’ is underpinned by a whole series of good, theatrical ideas, which never get tackled (or directed) properly, and then there are the continuity goofs. But I’ll get to them.
Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American truck driver in Iraq, whose convoy is attacked by insurgents, who kill most of his friends. He is buried in a wooden coffin in a shallow grave, and ransomed for $5 million, and has the length of the film to either raise the money or find his way out. What should then be an exercise in suspense and claustrophobia then mystifyingly becomes an exercise in tedium. Which family member is he phoning? Who cares? Is it really likely that his HR director would torment him so thoroughly when he’s close to death? Why do we need to hear the political platitudes from screenwriter Chris Sparling about how widespread and horrific this phenomenon is in post-war Iraq right now? Director Rodrigo Cortes never buckles down and delivers the suspense/horror film which this initially promises to be.
It’s not because the premise is faulty – it’s entirely because there’s never any real sense of suspense. Reynolds hears a call to prayer, suggesting he’s not just in a shallow grave but a really shallow grave – why doesn’t he just kick his way out when the coffin starts to collapse? Why is more not made of the clock ticking, of the mobile phone he’s given losing power? Why does he have more air than he could possibly handle, after burning more than his fair share with his lighter’s flame (and a goddamn fire) and panicking regularly? These inconsistencies may be true to life for all we know but this is a movie – although Reynolds makes Conroy very human and likeable this just isn’t entertaining or remotely compelling.
And don’t get me started about the betrayal of an ending. I accept that either way out would have been difficult to write, but it comes straight out of the Twilight Zone. It might work on the TV after half an hour of suspense, but not after 90 minutes of the film makers desperately trying to tell you something. Conroy’s death, whilst neatly undoing his ‘rescue’, tells you you’ve just wasted the entire movie finding out very little about a nice (but uninteresting) man for no reason. I wish I’d walked out. Don’t touch with a barge pole.