Rating: 4.5 out of 5
The premise of Buried is so incredibly simple; it’s the execution that’s genius. Take one character, film him being trapped in a coffin for 94 minutes and watch him increasingly panic trying to find a way out.
Film history has ably proven that dramatic tension can be skilfully achieved in a singular fixed location just by clever use of space and inventive camerawork. Hitchcock’s Rope (1948), 12 Angry Men (1957) and more recently Open Water (2004) are just some examples of this – but there has never been anything remotely close to what Buried attempts (and achieves) here.
Every single frame of Rodrigo Cortes' genius thriller takes place within the confines of a coffin and comprises entirely of close-ups of a desperate Ryan Reynolds as he gasps and cries and pleads for freedom from his claustrophobic death-trap.
Known mostly for his work as wisecracking action heroes or romantic fodder, Reynolds displays previously unheralded range here as Paul Conroy. This represents Reynolds’ A-game and when the whole movie focuses on one man without respite, it’s important you find a lead that’s as prismatic as Reynolds is in this instance.
Paul Conroy is an American contract truck driver in Iraq before he was suddenly captured and buried alive in a wooden box underneath the Iraqi desert. His abductors leave him with nothing more than his Zippo, a Blackberry with limited battery life and poor reception (to communicate ransom demands), a flask of booze and a dwindling oxygen supply.
The only brief windows of relief the audience and Paul get are his interactions on the phone as he desperately tries to call anyone from his company’s personnel department to the FBI for help. After a while even his cell becomes a source of exasperation as trying to find the right bureaucrat to save him becomes an impossible task - hurdled by incompetent operators and countless voicemail inboxes.
The wall of unfeeling red tape that envelops Paul, even in such dire straits, is infuriating. These little phone conversations serves as commentary for the larger politics of the Iraq War although this isn’t a message movie per se. There just comes a time when hollow reassurances, hopeless blunders and “I’m Sorry’s” from faceless officials becomes too much and it all organically stems from Paul’s understandable frustration.
The phone becomes the catalyst for more anxiety as we see the kidnappers use it to threaten, as well as grief as Paul tries to say his final farewells to loved ones. As if that wasn’t enough, Cortes even stages a supremely clever action sequence within the tiny box towards the end.
The ingenuity of Chris Sparling’s script and the sheer mindboggling logistics of filming something like this are astonishing. Buried is one of the tautest and tensest thrillers you will ever have the pleasure to witness and a brave piece of filmmaking which demonstrates that an economy of space can accommodate a liberality of imagination.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.