Remember how you always secretly thought about how cool it would be if you could get a Ryan Reynolds in a box? How you could keep him in the cupboard and bring him out for, uh, special occasions? Well, think again. It turns out that Ryan Reynolds in a box is not sexy and mischievous at all, but in fact wrong and dirty and kind of depressing. And I know this for a fact because I have seen Buried.
Buried is a movie about a man in a coffin. The entire movie is set in this coffin. It’s like when that movie Phone Booth came out, and everyone wondered if it was possible to sustain a whole film with just Colin Firth in a phone booth, but then they showed things happening outside and there was a cast of hundreds around his phone booth, including Radha Mitchell and Katie Holmes. In Buried, it’s a man in a coffin, buried underground. It is reminiscent of the scene in Kill Bill 2 where Uma Thurman is buried underground, except if you didn’t have any training by a frustrating Pai Mei and were therefore just stuck in a box without the ability to beat your way out of it with your mighty Uma Thurman knuckles. In Buried, you will not see any other faces. And, for a not insignificant amount of time as the movie starts, there’s no light, just some breathing. It got to the point where someone in the audience sighed dramatically and said, “Well, that was a good movie” and we all laughed and looked around awkwardly waiting for something to happen. Which, after a few sharp intakes of breath and the fumbling for a lighter, it does, and then things start to get interesting.
It takes a while for things to get clear, for both us and for Ryan Reynolds’ Paul Conroy. Why is he in a box in the ground? Who put him there? Where in the world is he? Can he be helped? While Ryan Reynolds is alarmingly attractive, is he interesting enough to hold an entire movie with few props and not much in the way of movement? I will only answer the last question for you, because spoilers are for jerks. Yes, he is, and the movie is good. But it’s not excellent. Because dramatic tension, great acting and the realism of the situation doesn’t stop one thing: watching someone in a box for two hours is still kind of boring. Because if something else isn’t immediately happening, there’s nothing new to look at. Just the box. And Ryan Reynolds.
But things do happen to Paul Conroy. We do hear him talk, and panic, all of his reactions completely realistic and covering all bases that a panicked person in a box would do. He does get a certain visitor, one that caused the poor man in the row behind me (who had been doing some manly swearing while the previews were on) to start moaning in horror to the point where I worried he would be sick on my hair. It is also a politically interesting film, though a little bit of a downer on that front. The things that can happen in a coffin in two hours are pretty high in number, depending on what you have in there with you. The movie relies entirely on this very small set—we don’t have any convenient visual flashbacks to Conroy’s past. The cinematography—which feels like an enormous word for what was done here—is amazing, considering the small area the film was made in. It’s a very claustrophobic feeling, and the camera will look through holes in the dirt or the wood towards him occasionally, but you are always very aware of the restrictions and frankly, being able to make such a small scope of film as interesting as it was is an incredible feat.
I found with Buried that I actually enjoyed it more once it was over than I actually did at the time. I occasionally got bored with it, and cranky at the complete and utter morons Paul deals with at a couple of key moments. It got to a point where I wondered why every human being was such a stupid jerk and what was achieved by making everyone so awful, apart from to make me feel even more depressed than I already was. Once I was removed from the cinematic experience, I could think about the movie and appreciate it; but in all honesty, at the time, I found it a bit tedious. The post-cinematic experience is much better.
Disregarding the fact I know nothing about what it’s really like to be buried, I had one small gripe with what he could hear at one point, and what he was unable to hear at a vital point at the end, which should have been obvious. I don’t want to say much more than that, but it’s a small bit of continuity in a film that otherwise felt very honest. I am also full of doubt that he couldn’t escape; after all, Buffy the Vampire Slayer dug herself out of a grave, and vampires themselves do it all the time. Surely it can’t be that hard.
In summary: Meets Expectations, which were: Ryan Reynolds in a box.