Buried seems to be a very divisive film. I'm seeing lots of 1 star reviews, and lots of 8-10 star reviews.
**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**
I won't rehash the plot, as every other review seems to. I will say that the movie is extremely taut, claustrophobic, well-paced and tense, and that at every step you will believe that this man - who has woken up buried alive - is desperate to survive and is trying to come up with a possibility of escape.
The reason that this movie is getting so many 1 star reviews is because it is REALISTIC. Yes, REALISTIC.
I imagine most of the reviewers giving it low scores are viewers who don't yet have the maturity to face up to a hopeless situation. Most movies these days give the hero impossible odds to overcome, and he DOES overcome them... because it's a movie. In real life impossible odds means that you fail, you lose. Say goodbye.
Well, the odds are impossible in this movie. The main character wakes up in a box with almost zero mobility. The air supply is limited. He has only a lighter and a mobile phone (initially). He is in a foreign country, with no knowledge of his precise location. It is a nightmare situation. The odds are practically impossible. Yet we do believe that survival is possible. No, we almost DEMAND it. We hope and we pray that he will get out of that box. We empathise completely with his situation, but we believe there must be a way out.
And that is why the movie is garnering such a mixed response. He doesn't get out. It was doomed from the start. He's been put in there by men who don't give a damn whether he survives or not. By men who've killed other innocent people and will continue to do so because their country is war torn and they are angry and desperate. His only hope is the US government and a hostage working group, whom he communicates with by phone. Every conversation is an exchange of information, with Reynolds's character offering whatever information he can in exchange for vague promises of help, and the various people on the other end of the phone having their own agendas and needs. But ultimately what can they do? His location is unknown and his phone is untraceable. They're looking for a needle in a dusty haystack. He can't get himself out and they can't find him to get him out.
Read all of the 1 star reviews for comments like "why didn't the guy just use the knife to dig himself out?" and "he wastes oxygen using the zippo for light, what an idiot". He doesn't use the knife because every crack in the box lets sand in, and without the manoeuvrability to stand up, he would increase the speed at which he is buried. Remember, he cannot sit up, reach past his thighs, or even lift his head all the way up. And he uses the zippo for light because the alternative is to save oxygen while sitting there in the dark waiting for death. Action requires the use of resources, but only action gives the hope for success. Everyone seems to criticise his actions but I haven't yet seen a plausible escape plan offered up.
If you're the type of person who thinks that if you were buried alive you would simply one-inch-punch your way out Kill Bill style then you're not going to like Buried. It's as simple as that, because your solution is fantasy and you will have no interest in seeing how such a situation would actually play out.
This movie is about THE CHARACTER's choices. It's about what HE chooses to do for survival. If the viewer has the wisdom to accept the reality of the situation presented, and the understanding that this isn't some safe video game puzzle but rather a man's struggle to not die alone in a box somewhere in Iraq then they will find this movie hauntingly powerful.
If you only want happy endings and the overcoming of impossible odds then you will probably hate this film. It will upset your delicate notion that life is sparkly and everything works out for the best. You will probably give it 1 star and explain how you would have killed the snake, cut off it's tail and used it as a hose to breathe through.
But one thing's for sure: it will get under your skin and it will evoke a REACTION from you. And isn't that what good cinema is about anyway? See this film. You might hate it. But at least it will make you THINK.