Ryan Reynolds really proves his worth as an actor in this tight, tense and gripping claustrophobic thriller from Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes. Reynolds plays hired delivery boy Paul Conroy who has been given a job of making a delivery smack bang in the middle of the war in Iraq. After a gunfight and an explosion, Conroy blacks out only to wake up in a wooden coffin buried who knows where. All he has with him is his lighter, some of those fluorescent sticks that light up when you snap them, and a mobile phone. We join Conroy’s ordeal as he wakes up in the box, we join him as he panics and screams while trying to figure out exactly what is going on. We share his fear, we feel his panic and if you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, trust me, you will after this! The stage is now set for one of the most tense and frightening movie ordeals you will experience for some time.
Buried is a highly original film based on an idea which has been used many times before, and to brilliant effect in films like The Vanishing and The Serpent and the Rainbow. Buried’s genius though, comes from the fact you never actually leave the coffin, the entire 90 minutes is filmed inside the coffin, so there is no escape, no let up and no chance of breathing space. You suffer every panic attack with Conroy, every emotion and with such a blistering performance from Reynolds, he actually becomes your friend. Had the lead, and the only on screen performance, not had been portrayed so brilliantly, this film may not have worked. Thankfully Reynolds pulls it off, and then some. He never goes over the top and keeps his character believable and you instantly sympathise with him (why wouldn’t you?). The entire 90 minutes is simply Conroy on his phone talking to US security forces, the Government and his kidnappers as he attempts to piece together exactly what has happened to him.
He tries to ring loved ones, leaving desperate messages, he gets put on hold and when he screams down the phone “No, please do not put me on hold!!, my God do you feel it! With his battery getting low, it truly becomes a race against time to get help. Added to his problems is that his kidnappers want money by a deadline or new threats to Conroy’s life will be introduced. I won’t go into any details, but let’s just say this poor guy is up shit creek without a paddle. The poor guy breaks down on screen a number of times, and in a painfully upsetting scene, rings his parents to apologise for not being there enough. Scenes like this really get those emotions going, and Reynolds really does himself proud. I think it’s fair to say some tissues may be in order while watching this.
Now, I will admit to thinking, just what the hell can they do to make 90 minutes in a box interesting and edge of your seat like all the reviews have said? Well, let’s just say I was glad to have my doubts answered in brilliant fashion. By the time the film came to an end I had no idea 90 minutes had passed, I was quite literally on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Reynolds’ incredible performance is the star of the show here, but also its director Cortes’ genius use of camera angles and music that help shift this film from a good original idea into a work of brilliance. I’ve read that the coffin was built in such a way as to give the director the opportunity to glide around it, having the freedom to zoom in and out, to pan around the outside, to take shots from above, from the side, and very very close up. The camera work is dizzying and moves around with some force so that you never get bored of just one spot. It makes everything even more exciting and when it’s needed, it really helps add to that emotional or intense kick. The music also has a lot to do with how great this film is, with sounds often resembling a heartbeat, or a thumping build up which create levels of almost unbearable intensity. With the only lighting coming from Conroy’s phone, lighter or light-stick the dark, claustrophobic sense of panic is impossible to get away from. All the basic elements are used here to superb effect, and this is truly a minor cult classic. See it, but don’t expect a comfortable or easy watch.