Buried - Blu-ray Review

'Buried has all the problems most single-location films have, amplified ten times. Or should that be 'constricted ten times'?'

There's no real way to better review Buried than to tell you what you already know: it's a ninety-five minute film about a man, in a box. If that sounds intriguing to you - or, more pertinently, if watching Rodrigo Cortés try to make this premise work sounds intriguing to you - then you'll probably get something out of it. If it doesn't, you won't.

The reason why you won't is because Buried has all the problems most single-location films have, amplified ten times. Or should that be 'constricted ten times'? Who knows. Either way, putting one guy in one location for that amount of time and changing only the camera angles, lighting and voices on the other end of the phone is going to have its problems. Cortés, for example, struggles with variety. By the time the third or fourth person Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) has tried to call has turned out not to be near their phone, the frustration of getting someone's answer machine has been proven and worn out. Conroy's trips between quiet acceptance, rage and panic are understandable but, again, by the time they're repeated multiple times they start to become wearisome.

The decision by Cortés to use music is a key one. By using gradually heightening dulcet tones (albeit subtle ones) at moments of high tension the director seems to accept that by 'just' showing the coffin, he can't quite produce the necessary emotional response. Cortés needs something which is non-naturalistic to emphasise the tension and by that very decision he treads a thin line between compromising the film-making choices he makes elsewhere and heightening the audience's response to Conroy's plight.

That said, the emotional payoff of Buried (late though it comes) is significant and laced with evidence that Cortés has managed to get you to feel something for the majority of the film's runtime. Reynolds and/or screenwriter Chris Sparling can't resist a wry piece of humour every so often but otherwise this is as intense as the Canadian actor has ever been and he does a good job of making Conroy out to be both sympathetic and fallible. The voices on the other end of the phone do less well and are alternatively weak, forgettable, un-needed or anonymous. Not that that really matters: Buried is all about Reynolds and in a demanding situation he performs very well.

Everything about Buried comes back to Cortés' main artistic decision, which is a brave one but ultimately one that some will find hard to justify. Would the film really lose anything by making the trip outside of the box just once or twice? Could it have been more captivating if the time was split 50/50? It smacks of dedicated philosophical experiment rather than a decision based on what audiences will find most enjoyable or what elements would develop the narrative to a more satisfactory degree and for that reason Buried goes down as a film which could have been significantly better. Cortés' bravery and dedication to his idea are laudable but even if his execution of it is perfect the very nature of the idea produces a film which is nowhere near as thrilling as it desperately wants to be.

Look further...

'a sensational, exciting, moving, unrelenting and ultimately exhausting movie going experience' - Movie Reviews by Tom Clift


  1. I disagree, the idea of even showing what goes on outside the box gives me with a slight feeling of dread.

    I think we've seen that approach to "trapped" films in film and TV so many times that it has become conventional and dramatically inert. By removing it I think Cortes puts even more doubt into the mind of viewer as to whether Reynolds can even get out of the situation alive. You compare it with how 127 Hours did it (which is equally good) but I feel it'll be less interesting if the film attempted cross cutting.

  2. The concept is pushed beyond its limit here but I kind of liked this movie. Ryan Reynolds really has to carry the film from the first to last second and he does some really underrated work. I totally disagree about going "outside the box". It's the entire point of the movie to be stuck inside this coffin.

  3. desertofreel - I can see the argument from people who liked the idea and completely understand the thought process behind keeping the viewer (and Reynolds) in the box but because of that very reason I just wasn't as excited by BURIED as I thought I needed to be. Perhaps if it had have been shorter it might have got away with it but on the hour mark I was starting to feel my attention slipping.

    Castor - as above, I understand that Cortes wants to make a film which pushes the endurance of the viewer and of the one-location concept. But personally, I wasn't engaged enough by watching a man in a box for 100 minutes, hence the suggestion of taking the action outside of the box. I realise the film would lose something artistically but, for me, it needed to do that to become a touch more exciting. If the artistic conceit of a single filming location hasn't got the legs to last 100 minutes then why adhere to it?

  4. I wanted to see this film - then I saw "127 Hours", loved it - and skipped over "Buried".

    Nice review.

  5. It's worth seeing Duke I just personally wouldn't set your expectations too high. I did enjoy it, I just don't subscribe to the argument that it's a classic.

  6. Brent. Still having trouble signing in.

    Ha ha ha ! I wondered if you would like this!! I actually think it was pretty good even though your points are very valid. Somehow this worked for me event though I can't stand Ryan. Green Lantern? no thanks!!
    It will be interesting to see how many movies this one will inevitably spawn.

  7. They'll definitely keep plugging at these sorts of films for the foreseeable future, I don't think they've worn out the concept yet and who knows, something really good could come out of it.

    I'm not sold on Reynolds but since being nudged in the direction of the comics I've become intrigued by the GREEN LANTERN story. I hope his casting doesn't spoil it.

    (Off topic: on signing in - do you get a 404 'not found' error after entering your details on blogger? After this happens try reloading the page www.blogger.com. After this I've found I'm then signed in and can continue as normal. Been using this workaround for the past week or so)

  8. Brent.
    No 404 message. I go through the normal sign in but it just sends me in bloody circles. Pain in the rear eand!