Special to The Dagger
A complex narrative in a deceptively simple setting, Buried provides suspense and thrills, but loses its way while trying to be too many things.
Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a civilian truck driver who is captured in Iraq by insurgents and awakens in a coffin buried somewhere in the desert. A few minutes of panic ensue until he discovers he has been left with a cell phone and lighter. Call after call goes unanswered as he desperately tries to find help and escape his prison. As his options narrow down, he lucks upon a contact at the state department who becomes his best chance at rescue. At the same time, he begins to get calls from his kidnapper demanding a ransom for his release. As the kidnappers demands increase due to Paul’s inability to provide the money, a series of grisly events unfold, leading to several twists and turns at the climax.
Ryan Reynold turns in a career performance, effectively changing him from goofy Van Wilder into serious leading man. The intense role is handled extremely well, with Ryan showing a range unseen in his previous work.
Unfortunately, the low point is the script that tries, and fails, to be many different things at the same time. Attempting to be a Hitchcock-like suspense, horror, political drama, and comedy, the film doesn’t quite fire on any of those cylinders with much success. There are a few good one-liners and the suspense builds nicely at the end of the film, but a lot is undone in the early parts by trying to be too much. At points, the political commentary is overtly trite and distracts from the overall feel of the film. It may be giving the script too much credit to make a connection with a larger politicized metaphor: trapped in the coffin equals trapped in the war in Iraq.
It is better if you don’t think long on the many plot holes. What kind of kidnapper leaves someone two full bottles of their anxiety medicine, a flask of alcohol, and four sources of light when they bury them alive for ransom? That being said, both the beginning and the end of the film have serious flaws. After the opening credits, the director took a page from independent film and left a long gap of silence and darkness before action unfolded. Most of the audience was lost during this gap. Worse is the problem of the film’s ending. Is there any good way to bring closure and achieve audience satisfaction? If he escapes, it is a Hollywood cop-out. If he dies, it is a gruesome waste of time.
Overall, rent it. There is not enough good here to overshadow the problems and make this a rush-out-and-see-it recommendation.
TWO STARS out of four.
Directed by Rodrigo Cortés. Writen by Chris Sparling.
Rated R for language and some violent content.
Runtime 1 hour, 35 min