Buried is film about an American truck driver named Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) who gets sent over to Iraq as an employer of a corporation helping to rebuild the damage that has been done since the war began. Paul is working a job of transporting kitchen supplies across a region of Baghdad when his convoy is attacked by insurgents. He gets knocked out during the attack and wakes up to find himself trapped in a coffin which he can only believe to be buried deep in the ground. Surprisingly, all of this setup is found out by the audience through expository dialog as every scene takes place with Paul already in the coffin. It is hard to believe that despite having no prologue, epilogue, or flashbacks during the course of the movie, Buried actually works despite the static location and single starring character.
The thing I was most struck by after viewing Buried was that it is not based on a preexisting short story but an original screenplay (by Chris Sparling). Though I enjoyed the movie quite a bit, I found myself thinking how much better the story would be if it were in the medium of a tightly worded short story. Not to say that this was a failed experiment, I just felt the Director (Rodrigo Cortes) had to resort to countless instances of slowly panning away from Paul's face to show the darkness he is engulfed within. I'll admit that it was an powerful shot the first time, but as he kept going back to it, I couldn't help but feel this was being done to simply pad the running time of a story that can not support a feature length (Buried ends up clocking in at a fairly lean 95 minutes).
Of course the movie is not just Ryan Reynolds in a coffin screaming to himself for an hour and a half. Luckily, we find out early on that he has access to a cell phone with ever dwindling power and shoddy reception. The movie then becomes a series of intense phone calls as he tries to figure out who can actually get him out of this situation. Reynolds had one important task in this movie and that was to make us care about Paul Conroy getting out of this coffin. Without that, there really isn't a movie to enjoy. Fortunately, I think he succeeded on this level as by the end, I found myself actually invested in his outcome, which typically does not happen to me when watching horror/thriller movies.
There are lots of interesting twists in Buried to keep the story moving along to the grand finale. I found myself early on having to turn off the part of my brain that always tries to piece together a movie's final twist way before it happens. I realized this is a movie that doesn't have that many options as far as plausible endings go so it would be better to simply enjoy the ride. Having said that, I really loved the ending they did go with. It's a great moment that reminded me of the best Twilight Zone episodes where even though it's fairly easy to see how it's all going to end, you still feel like you got punched in the stomach when the ending actually happens. Too many modern B-movies are based on a hook that fails to deliver (Snakes on a Plane, Machete, Precious), so it's always good to see one actually stick the landing.
Overall, I'd categorize Buried as a cool experiment that while it doesn't work out perfectly, is something worth seeing. Aside from a few lackluster camera/editing choices (Buried actually includes the cliché scene of the main character replaying key points of other character's dialog from the movie), it really holds up as a smart thriller. Kudos also goes to whoever created the fun title sequence which is set to a great "Bernard Herrmann-like" score, making you feel like you are about to watch an old Hitchcock thriller. It really helped set the tone and made it feel more like an event movie instead of the low budget thriller it really is. I definitely recommend Buried and look forward to hearing more people's reactions to this interesting, yet potentially polarizing, flick.