Buried: A Hollow Yet Inventive MacGuffin

1 10 2010

When news first broke that Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried was going to star Ryan Reynolds – and only Ryan Reynolds – a collective eyebrow was raised. A movie about a man buried in a coffin, where the audience sees nothing but the man buried in the coffin? And with an actor most famous for his comic and action roles? But it’s this skepticism that ultimately works in Buried‘s favor. Here’s the breakdown:

Paul Conroy wakes up in a wooden box, a coffin – he’s been buried alive, somewhere in Iraq after his supply convoy was ambushed. He has a cell phone, a pencil, a flask of booze, a lighter and about two hours worth of air. What follows is a race against time as Paul tries to get help from the outside, deal with a possible terrorist plot and contact his family.

The Monkey: Director Rodrigo Cortés accomplishes a miracle; he makes 95 minutes of claustrophobia watchable. The pure filmmaking genius is astounding and the creativity is riveting. Lighting, camera angles, sounds – all were used with precision to carry the audience through Paul’s harrowing experience. The visuals are never boring, each “scene” (if they can even be called that) feels somehow new and fresh. The very concept of Buried screams of student film enthusiasm and art house cinema originality. It’s as if Cortés took a bet: “Bet you can’t make a movie about a guy buried alive, only showing what happens in the box!” Well, Cortés took that bet and succeeded spectacularly. This is one DVD behind-the-scenes I can’t wait to see!

Ryan Reynolds will get a lot of credit for this movie – duh, he’s the only actor to give any credit to – but it’s well-deserved. Buried might be the first time mainstream audiences see him in a meaty role. And what better place to prove your acting mettle than in a movie riding solely on your sweaty, sand covered shoulders? Let’s just hope his turn as the Green Lantern in next year’s blockbuster superhero movie doesn’t ruin his chance to be taken seriously.

The Weasel: While it may seem I’ve given this film the highest praise possible, let me be clear – I haven’t. It’s all in relation to the extreme skepticism and relatively low expectations. The movie was a technical masterpiece, only in that it seemed unfilmmable. The fact that it was done, and done wonderfully, astounded me. But Buried is by no means a perfect movie. For one, while Ryan Reynolds was great, one can only take so much heavy breathing and panicked panting. By the third bout of hysteria, Paul’s Lamaze breathing was verging on laughable.

Then there was the conclusion. Maybe some slight spoilers, so be warned. Buried missed a superb opportunity to take the movie to the next level. It didn’t have to just be a movie about a guy buried alive. And the story leads the audience to believe there is something more. A terrorist conspiracy? A U.S. government conspiracy? A corporate conspiracy? A dream? A cover-up? Some twisted mind game? Something?! Nope – just a guy in a box. I’m sure some will claim, “that was the point, it was making a statement,” but in my mind, the statement it was making was, “we’re lazy.” I don’t buy the auteur crap about artistic integrity and blah blah blah that nearly suffocates me every time I watch a pretentious indie or student film. How about your duty to quality storytelling? And that’s where Buried failed. This film doesn’t just employ a MacGuffin, it is a MacGuffin. There are some really creative and technically impressive commercials out there, but no one is expected to pay $10 to watch them. No story, no dice.

If you’re a Reynolds fan or a lover of the art of filmmaking, you’ll enjoy this movie for its performance and audacity. Otherwise, there’s not much here for you.

2.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Was Buried a success? Does technical brilliance outweigh storytelling? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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One response

1 10 2010

I saw Buried this weekend and it was even better than I expected. You have got to see this one in theaters, what an experience! Ryan Reynolds is amazing! http://www.facebook.com/experienceburied

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