How do you make a thriller on the cheap? Stick a guy in a coffin for an hour and a half and call it good. That's more or less the premise of the new Ryan Reynolds thriller Buried, out on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
In Buried, an American contractor in Iraq (Ryan Reynolds) awakes to discover he's buried underground in a wooden coffin with not much more than a lighter and a cell phone. For some reason he finds this troublesome and panics, and takes to calling whoever he can get a hold off to get the hell out of there.
What follows is a surprisingly effectively and well acted thriller from director Rodrigo Cortés and writer Chris Sparling. You wouldn't think a movie about a guy stuck in a coffin could be exciting, but they just about pull it off.
Ryan Reynolds, who Green Lantern approaching, gives the best performance of his career, and, for obvious reasons, the movie rests solely on his shoulders. As much as Cortés makes the most of the angles and imagery at his disposal, the movie would be nothing without strong acting.
Reynolds' character Paul Conroy starts off as not very likable, but he slowly develops into a meaningful protagonist. Cortés does a good job of getting the audience into Paul's head; we experience what he experiences, and because of that Buried works.
Until it runs out of steam.
Unfortunately, Buried starts to crumble in the third act. There's a sequence with a snake that seems oddly out of place - for the entire movie, Paul is focused on solving his situation without having the power to do so, and then, suddenly, there's a snake.
Why? To give him some immediate physical threat? While well done, the scene seems cheap, unnecessary and distracting.
SPOILER. The ending is also a bit of a letdown. After everything we go through with Paul, he's just left to die? The ending is meant to be shocking, but in reality it's just disappointing.
Buried is a well made movie that keeps things tense throughout, but this is a movie that was always going to succeed or fail based on its conclusion. And its conclusion just isn't very good.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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