REVIEW: Rodrigo Cortés' Buried Amounts to a Pile of Cheap Manipulation

Movieline Score:


But Paul doesn't give up; he just keeps on dialing, eventually reaching the home office of his employer, the State Department (at this point he challenges a government lackey to prove that the guy really has an interest in saving his life), and his wife's voicemail, where he leaves a deeply unconscionable (on the part of the screenwriter, that is) "I love you, goodbye" speech for her and his young son. Cortés seems to believe he's taking us on a profound, soul-searching journey -- what would you be thinking about in what might potentially be your last few minutes of life? -- but the effect is alternately too arch and too maudlin. Buried plays like a highly self-conscious one-man Off Broadway play in which the multiple dueling themes -- write them down in your notebooks, kids -- are Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Himself.

Cortés adds the final card to this already absurdly stacked deck when the human-resources director of Paul's company (his voice belongs to Stephen Tobolowsky) gets on the line and -- get this -- fires him, so the company won't be held liable for anything that happens to him. That's a great black-comedy idea, but it's not played for laughs here; instead it's just one more extinguished match in this cramped cavern of existential bleakness.

The picture is, at least, artfully designed: Cinematographer Eduard Grau (also the DP on Tom Ford's exquisite-looking, if superchilly, A Single Man) comes up with a surprising number of inventive angles and hues -- from cool blue tones to slightly warmer grays -- to convey the inner limits of Paul's tiny prison.

And Reynolds does his damnedest to make the material work. After his sly and amusing turns in Adventureland and The Proposal, I've come around to seeing him as a gifted actor, and he's as good as anyone could possibly be in this role. Paul's understandable anxiety seems to affect the very air around him: You can almost see his fear, broken into molecular bits, vibrating in the space around him.

But Buried puts the audience through an emotional workout only to -- surprise! -- pull the rug out at the last minute. Which, if you think about it, is hardly a surprise at all. The movie ends the only way it can, but we aren't even allowed to walk away from it feeling bereft. Instead, we know we've just seen a cool, clever suspense tale in which one man's life hangs in the balance. Paul's life is treated as a novelty. Out there in the audience, we're treated as suckers.

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  • bierce says:

    I guess Buried and 127 Hours are hoping for that giant pile of box-office cash that Phone Booth and Frozen pulled in.

  • WesleyWellsley says:

    It's possible box office wasn't a concern for either. Plus Buried only cost $2 million to make and purchased for just a million more. Reynolds name will make it break even at least. So gtfo Bierce.
    This is an interesting slam to a film you are actively promoting on your site, lol. Way to go Movieline and Stephanie whatever your fucking last name is.

  • Eddie says:

    Really, Movieline? Is this going to continue? You had our attention for awhile, but Stephanie's been a real step in the wrong direction. She seems so out of sync with what we expect from you guys. Please, make a change and give us some reviews we want to talk about.

  • kudos says:

    I'm guessing all the commentors would love to be stuck in a box with Reynolds for 2 hours. Damn, get off his dick.

  • "(Stephanie) seems so out of sync with what we expect from you guys. Please, make a change and give us some reviews we want to talk about."
    Eddie: What does this even mean? More snark? More easily digestible bite-sized commentaries? Are you not talking about this review by leaving a comment? Why are you reading this?
    And guess what, WellsleyWellsley, Ms. Zacharek (or couldn't you read her byline?) isn't a branch of the advertising department of either Movieline or Lionsgate. Her job is to assess the film and her responses to it, not second-guess what her editors, or the studio, or even you would be most comfortable with her writing.

  • Debby Rieck says:

    I never thought I would agree with this opinion, but I’m starting to see things differently.

  • xfollower says:

    I couldn't agree more. Great article Stephanie.

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