I watched Buried last night

Posted on January 11, 2011 | 5 minute read

Buried is a film about a truck driver named Paul. Paul is working in Iraq delivering supplies; his convoy was ambushed. He wakes up in a coffin, buried alive. He has a cellphone. The entire movie is set in the coffin with Paul as he tries to get help.

I knew nothing about the movie except for the bare gist of the plot when we started watching, but as soon as Paul lit up his Zippo lighter and we saw a shot of his nostrils I knew it was Ryan Reynolds. I’d recognize that nose anywhere.

The movie was at the same time awesome, draining, and utterly stupid. Watch out, there are spoilers ahead (including the ending, but I’ll give you another warning for that).

Buried was stupid because Paul is an idiot. They estimate themselves that as he can get a cellphone signal in the coffin Paul must only be a couple of feet under ground max. When the coffin breaks and sand starts pouring in it never occurs to Paul to attempt to extract himself from the coffin and dig his way out. Heck, all he’d need to do is hold his breath stand up. In addition, the US army can’t find Paul. The cellphone left with Paul (a Blackberry) has GPS capability. You see it in the menu, I’m pretty sure. Come on, Paul, you really couldn’t piece this together?

This coupled with the fact that he would never have enough air to survive for a couple of hours in that coffin, especially when he’s got his Zippo lighter going like he is, as well as an unfortunate incident with a snake getting into the coffin and then out again (a snake underground? Can’t be that far down) made the movie a little (ok a lot) unrealistic.

But you know what? None of that matters. This movie wasn’t about Paul being saved. It wasn’t about how he could get out and what he did or didn’t try. The movie was about a man being in a deadly situation and how those in a position of power - whether it be his employer (a company called CRT) or the US military - handle the situation. Paul was never meant to be the heroic character clawing his way out towards the light. He was never meant to come up with a witty and genius plan to save himself when nobody else could. Paul is never meant to be more than an average guy stuck in a coffin in Iraq.

Earlier in the movie the US military hostage liaison communicated to Paul via the cellphone that these situations have occured before and some people have been found. Paul asked him to give him a name - a name of someone who’s been saved. The liaison offers the name of “Mark White”, who’s been rescued and is now back home with his family. This helps to keep some spark of hope alive for both Paul and the viewer - it isn’t totally hopeless.

I know I warned you about the spoilers, but there are major spoilers coming up below - by major I mean the ending

The ending was so emotionally draining for me, especially the last seconds where Paul is on the phone with the hostage liaison, who tells him that they’ve found him and are digging him up now. Just minutes ago Paul was resigned to the idea of dying down there, knowing it was all over - and suddenly he’s being found! I think I felt as happy as Paul did when that phone call came.

Meanwhile sand is pouring into the coffin and Paul has only seconds before he suffocates in it. Paul’s wife (whom he couldn’t get through to before and left messages) calls at the last second and she and Paul have a sobbing but relieved conversation about how he’s coming home, and how he’s going to be ok. He says they found him, they’re rescuing him. He’s then back on the phone with the hostage liaison and you can hear people digging like mad through the phone. Then just as sand covers Paul completely there’s silence on the other end. Then, the hostage liaison says: “Oh God, I’m so sorry, it’s Mark White…they’ve taken us to Mark White”. Those were the last words Paul hears as he suffocates.

And then I just burst out crying (ok so not sobbing or anything…I only cried a little).

Not only did Paul die down there when he thought he was so close to being rescued - so close to seeing that coffin lid being pulled open. But he died knowing that he was lied to about Mark White (meaning that probably no one was ever rescued and it was hopeless all along); framed and fired by his employer, who notified him that his family will not be getting insurance money over the phone while he was stuck in a coffin; knowing that the US military bombed the area where they knew he was, triggering the damage in the coffin and causing the sand that was now suffocating him to start filling the box.

I was just so tired and drained after the movie and wishing that I had never watched it. Now that I’ve gotten a chance to extract myself from the experience and look back on it, I’m glad I did.




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