Review: “Buried” @ San Sebastian Film Fest 2010

I saw some great movies and some rather horrible ones.  Let’s start with the bad ones.


Country of Origin: Spain

Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Starring: Ryan Reynolds

This is one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life.

It was produced and directed by in Spain, starred American actor Ryan Reynolds, and took place in Iraq.

I initially thought that such a combination could be either great or horrible, a hunch proved correct when I learnt the storyline – Ryan Reynolds is buried alive in a casket in the Iraqi desert with only a limited amount of air left and a cell phone in his pocket.  I was interested to see how it would turn out, so I bought a ticket for the midnight premiere and listened to director Rodrigo Cortés give us his introduction.

The film’s Spanish director knew he was running the edge between creative genius and total failure.  He came out before the screening and gave a charming speech about how he realized he was working within limitations, and that at the end of the day you can’t escape the fundamental constraint – it’s about a man in a box.  The question, he said, was how to make it work within those constraints?

After watching the film, I proposed a different question – why not pick a less limiting script?  Perhaps, one that involved more than one scene, one character and one setting?   Sure, maybe one of the history’s great filmmakers could make it work, but Cortés could not.

For one, the Cortés decided to film in real time – that is, second by second as it happened.  This was intended to build tension and make the viewer feel as if he was in a coffin, but instead it only brought awkward moments where Reynolds was simply crying onscreen before a bemused audience.  That sort of crap should be edited out.

Secondly, the camera never turns off, never leaves the casket, and never shows any actor besides Reynolds.  Aside from Reynolds swearing to himself in the dark, the only dialogue comes via the cell phone he uses to contact the outside world – his family, the embassy, the Pentagon et cetera.

As Reynolds struggles to contact someone who can actually help him before he suffocates, he is embroiled in the bureaucracy of the State Department, family problems back in the States, the complex politics of the Iraq invasion, and at a few points he is even put on hold, while the audience listens to a disembodied voice say Your call is very important to us…

All of this conflict was channeled into the coffin via Reynolds’ cell phone.  In my opinion the tried to cram too many things into a box. Without editing, multiple characters, and the occasional change of scenery, it’s hard to tackle so many conflicts in one movie.

After about ten minutes I just wanted to wish the protagonist the best of luck and move on with my life but I sat through it out of respect.  Towards the end I found myself in the awkward position of wanting for Reynolds to either be rescued or simply die – anything to get me out of the theater.

Oddly enough, most other people liked it and the movie got quite good ratings on IMDb.  I can’t understand such sentiments.

I think the director summed it up quite well before the movie even screened – no matter what you do, it’s a movie about a guy in a box.

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