Brandon's Sundance 2010 Review: Rodrigo Cortés' Buried
by Brandon Lee Tenney
January 31, 2010
One location. One actor. One phenomenal filmmaking achievement. Directed by Rodrigo Cortes, starring Ryan Reynolds, Buried is the story of Paul Conroy who, after his convoy is attacked in Iraq, is buried alive inside a coffin with only a lighter and a cell phone. That's it. For 94 minutes, we, the audience, are inside that coffin with Paul. As impossible as it might sound, it works. It's tense and horrifying. Claustrophobic, shocking, and awe-inspiring -- if not always because of the script, then because of the filmmaking. Buried's directing, cinematography, editing, and score all act in concert to form a remarkably singular vision. Rodrigo Cortes' confidence and sheer talent are the paramount reasons why this film is so successful.
The film is not without its problems, though. There are some seriously major logic holes that require more than a little suspension of one's disbelief. Paul is provided a cell phone which receives perfect reception despite it being buried beneath the earth. If, as they say in the movie, he's only buried a few feet deep instead of many, then why and how does so much dirt come into play later? Wouldn't using a lighter inside such a confined space with a limited oxygen supply deplete said oxygen supply much quicker than is let on? Buried also borders on offensively manipulative. Some decisions are made by Paul that feel false, though to imagine myself in his position is next to impossible.
Buried walks that fine line between what makes the best story and what feels the most real. I wholeheartedly agree that the story, above all, should take precedent. It's what films are. It's what we as the audience respond to. The balance between the two, however, is a tricky get. And it's this balance that's off, if just by a bit.
All of the above is certainly not meant to overshadow the overwhelming achievement that is Buried. To transform an inclosed, buried coffin into the entire world of a film is astonishing. To film that world, create obstacles within it -- not just without -- and produce a taught, intense film of so high a caliber is nothing short of awesome. For Ryan Reynolds to so fully commit to a character so hopelessly ensnared, to carry an entire film on his back like some Atlas of old is simply a joy to watch. That this film is able to not only scare its audience, raising the collective heart rate to well over 180, and fit in a very poignant commentary on the U.S. government's love affair with corporate bureaucracy is wonderful. Because even though Buried is not without its problems, its accomplishments are so far and above the expected, the imaginable, that it's nothing short of a success.
It's a great film. Will it sweep the zeitgeist like Paranormal Activity? Perhaps. It's certainly one to see in a theatre with an audience. It's an experience not to be missed, regardless.
Brandon's Sundance Rating: 8.5 out of 10