Review: Buried

The idea of a man trapped in a coffin has been part of pop culture narrative for decades. Alice in Chains sung about a man in a box back in 1990, Joel "Bat Nipples" Schumacher had Colin Farrel stuck inside a phone booth in 2002 and, perhaps most recently and famously, Quentin Tarantino gave us The Bride in a coffin in 2004. Six years later, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés brings us Buried, which can be described (and I wouldn't be surprised if this was the elevator pitch that sold the movie) as the scene from Kill Bill with The Bride stuck inside a coffin, except it's Ryan Reynolds instead of Uma Thurman, and it lasts for 95m instead of 5. And Rodrigo Cortés is not Quentin Tarantino.

As if being trapped inside a coffin isn't bad enough for Paul Conroy, the director piles on the pressure with a number of supplies: the cellphone he's using to yell at different persons that don't understand that he's trapped inside a coffin in the middle of he desert ("Oh God the battery is at 50%!", the guy next to me helpfully explained), a couple of glowsticks, the very air he's breathing. The fact that you know that it's Ryan Reynolds in a box for 90 minutes (which is explicitly explained in the movie's marketing materials) means that you know he won't die ten minutes in, and that he won't come out of the coffin and do interesting stuff. Indeed, the movie plays out just as you imagine how a movie about a guy trapped in a coffin with a cellphone and a lighter would: he... talks on the phone; he... lights the Zippo. The movie lays out different plot twists to keep you guessing how it might end. And then it goes completely off-track in the final stretch. For most of its running time, the movie is completely uninterested in delivering any messages about anything, then it starts dropping hints that it might, and then wraps everything up in a disappointing finale.

Even though I like the movie's concept, and I'm sure there's a kick-ass 20m short film treatment somewhere in it, the execution is inadequate: a lot of the suspense feels cheap, and you just know that everything that Mr. Conroy attempts to escape his predicament is going to fail up until the ninety minute mark, when he will either make it or he won't. Schumacher did it first and did it better, so if you're crazy about seeing somebody trapped inside a box you should probably watch Phone Booth instead.

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