Review: “Buried” A Relevant, if Underground Picture

“Buried” stars Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, a civilian truck driver working in Iraq, who awakens to find himself entombed in a wooden coffin. Armed only with a cell phone and a Zippo lighter, Conroy spends the next 94 minutes – essentially the entirety of the film – trying to negotiate his rescue.

The premise presents a number of obvious challenges, but surely the most daunting was keeping the story moving. Yet director Rodrigo Cortes does an impressive job of pacing his narrative. Just when you think the film has run out of gas, Cortes manages to stage an action sequence in a box that’s less than 50 cubic feet in size.

Reynolds is a pleasant surprise, stretching himself far beyond the comfort zone that has largely defined his career. Not only is he the focus of essentially every shot in the film, he covers a large swath of the spectrum of human emotion: fear, rage, sadness, love, sorrow... Let’s just say he’s come a long way since “Van Wilder.” Screenwriter Chris Sparling and Reynolds wisely conspire to make Paul a bit of a dick, but still likable and human enough that you root for his survival.

Making Reynolds’ performance all the more admirable are the fact that he pulled double duty as both leading man and head gaffer, handling all the lighting for the film. And because every scene could onyl be shot with one camera, maintaining continutiy was also primarliy his repsonsibility.

The film is pretty clearly a metaphor the United States’ predicament in Iraq, without really taking issue with our involvement there. But Sparling, Cortes and Reynolds will all tell you that the film is not in fact about the Iraq War, a stance that is as frustrating as it is absurd. It’s about a man trapped in Iraq desperately seeking a way out, but ineffectual bureaucracy and forgetfulness conspire to make escape virtually impossible – of course it’s about the Iraq War.  Yes, “Buried” is about other things as well, with scathing indictments of the federal government, big business and insurance companies, but c’mon…

“Buried” is impressive film even without taking into account the number of hurdles it had to clear, but given points for degree of difficulty, it’s a minor triumph.

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