I remember when I saw the trailer for Buried (directed by Rodrigo Cortés and starring Ryan Reynolds), I thought it looked horrifying – though I was curious how the film would play out for it’s 94 minute running time. While conceptually interesting, Buried is essentially about a man trapped inside a box – material which seems better suited for a short feature. That conceit – and the fact that the film rests almost entirely on the performance of it’s only on-screen actor – make the fact that the film was completely engaging an even more impressive feat.
Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), a truck driver working in Iraq, recovers from unconsciousness to find that he is buried alive inside a wooden coffin with little more than a cell phone, a zippo lighter and a knife. Paul’s initial reaction to his predicament is to panic – understandably – and the tension is palpable as he frantically tries to escape his claustrophobic surroundings.
He is eventually contacted by his kidnappers – via the planted cell phone he is buried with – who demand a ransom for him to be released alive. Paul desperately tries to contact his employers and family before finally making a connection with an FBI agent, during which time he is able to vaguely recall the details of an ambush led by insurgents – presumably by those responsible for holding him hostage.
As Paul works within the confines of his surroundings to garner his release from captivity, there is never a moment when you aren’t vividly aware of his time running out. A cellular battery slowly draining or dropping calls, a lighter running out of fuel to burn, limited oxygen to breathe and a bevy of other obstacles – punctuate the unlikelihood of Paul’s survival. Yet there are fleeting moments of hopeful respite here and there, just enough to string you – and Paul – along.
Ryan Reynolds perhaps seems like an odd choice for this role – his charismatic personality is as recognizable as his famous face, both of which have the potential to outshine his performance – but I felt like his quick-wit and charm were actually assets to this role.
Paul is the only person to appear onscreen for the entire running time and I never tired of watching him – that is a credit to Ryan Reynolds, who shouldered the burden of carrying this film (not to mention the daunting task of actually filming it – the experience of which he likened to undergoing wisdom tooth surgery…through his penis).
Cortés takes creative measures to resolve the issues of lighting and shooting a confined setting, all with chilling results. Some unexpected, additional challenges present themselves and as Paul’s suffering mounts and his situation grows even more dire – his helplessness feels all the more unrelenting because of his containment.
Watching him struggle for air and lose his shit is terrifying and weirdly identifiable – the horror of the situation is simple, visceral and built in – I thought this film was a unique and welcome addition to the genre.