An American contractor in Iraq, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up bound and gagged in a roughly hewn wooden coffin. He finds a Zippo lighter, pen knife, pencil, hip flask and mobile phone. Unable to read the Arabic instructions on the mobile he calls his wife back in the States, she’s not home, he calls 911, the FBI and his contract company. All the calls frustrate him further until he receives a call from his kidnappers, who inform him that they want $5 million dollars for his release and he only has 90 minutes of air in the coffin.
Paul gets through to a hostage negotiator who informs him that they are on the case. The kidnappers call back and instruct him to make a hostage video for the media, when he refuses they send him a video file of one of his associates, a female driver who Paul was close too, she’s murdered on camera.
Buried spends the entire 95 minute running time in the coffin with Ryan Reynolds. It sounds boring but Director Rodrigo Cortes keeps the film flowing and really works to make it visually interesting without cutting away from the situation at all. The use of various light sources is excellent; we only ever see Paul in varying glows cast from the lighter, a glow stick, shoddy flashlight and from the mobile phone screen. They all differ and work as a visual aid to Pauls mental and emotional state, he’s resourceful when using the lighter, frustrated with the dying flashlight, tense with the glow stick. The blue glow from the mobile breaks up these different states and drives the ‘action’.
Cinematographer Eduard Grau does an exceptional job with the film and you really feel that you’re in there with Paul throughout his ordeal.
The script is well written and takes us on an emotional ride with Paul; we feel his frustration and fear especially during the tense and sometimes oddly amusing phone calls with his captors and the people who are supposed to be on his side. Scriptwriter Chris Sparling said in a recent interview that his previous scripts were all knocked back due to the prohibitive budget costs so he thought of the simplest scenario he could. He certainly put more thought into Buried than that throwaway line indicates and has delivered a fantastic premise that really works on emotional, intellectual and visceral levels.
Ryan Reynolds delivers a performance I never thought him capable of from his previous outings. He’s alone on screen for the duration and entirely believable in a difficult role. Tense, suspenseful, exciting and original, Buried won’t appeal to everyone, especially those looking for cheap thrills and big action set-pieces, but it has far more to offer and is worth the effort.
Quality: 4 out of 5 stars
Any good: 4 out of 5 stars