The most suspenseful film of 2010 arrives with Buried
, a stomach-turning drama about an American truck driver in Iraq taken hostage by a unseen kidnapper, placed in a coffin, and buried underground. It's a one-man show with Ryan Reynolds
playing Paul Conroy, the kidnapped driver who's coffin-bound for Buried
's entire 94 minute running time. Reynolds, best known for goofy comedies and action films, is simply fearless as he conveys the terror of being trapped, the ebb and flow of the panic and desperation that set in when he's rendered completely powerless by an unknown antagonist.
There's not much to the plot - Paul is buried, he doesn't know who captured him, why he was the one kidnapped after his convoy was ambushed and his co-workers were killed, or how to get out of his terrifying predicament. All he has at his disposal is a cell phone (not his) with a battery that will get lower with every use, a small flask of whiskey, and a lighter. He knows he's in a coffin, that much is obvious even with the small amount of light his cell phone and lighter give off, but what's the point?
After composing himself, Paul reaches out via the cell phone to anyone who can help. He calls his wife, but she's not around. He calls his company back in the States, and they're more worried about any potential liability they have if he dies than in getting him to safety. He calls the State Department. And in between all these calls, his kidnapper calls him. He believes Paul's a soldier and demands he come up with millions in order to be set free. Paul knows that will never happen, but he's not willing to give up. As his limited supplies run out, he continues to cling to the hope that a rescue is possible, if he can keep calm and not waste his resources or energy.
The Bottom Line
Even those who don't suffer from claustrophobia are going to feel the need to race from the theater and take a deep breath of fresh air after the credits roll on Buried
. 10 minutes in I wasn't sure if I was going to survive sitting through the entire film. But getting my anxiety under control was well worth the effort as Buried
proved to be a spellbinding, heart-wrenching film.
Reynolds is confined in a box for the entire film, which, let's face it, doesn't sound like an appealing premise for a film. Spending $10 to basically watch an actor laying down in a box for an hour and a half might not sound like a worthwhile investment of your time and money. But what director Rodrigo Cortes has done with Chris Sparling's script is simply astounding.
And credit Reynolds with a mature, committed performance, displaying talent sometimes hidden in the numerous romantic comedies and the spattering of action roles he's taken on in recent years. Buried rests squarely on his shoulders and he attacks the character with fierce determination and grit. We have to be able to feel every moment of panic and face this unimaginable terror with this poor truck driver, who was only guilty of being in the wrong place at the worst possible time, or else Buried would be dead on arrival. And the fact we are right there with him is because of how masterfully Reynolds brings to life his character.
Ryan Reynolds stars in 'Buried.'© Lionsgate Films
Just as Paul only has a few items to work with, director Cortes is handcuffed to having to replicate the lighting from a cell phone or the flickering flame of a lighter. And as with Paul, Cortes isn't given the opportunity to shoot - literally - outside the box. What he pulls off with restricted camera movements, low lighting, and just one actor leaves the impression of a larger environment, and he accomplishes it all without cheating.
Cortes and screenwriter Sparling don't answer all of the questions, which is a smart move on their part. We can deduce, as Paul does over time, that he's not buried very deep. We know he's close to a town or village as bells chime in the distance calling people to prayer. And there's a bizarre bit with a 'surprise visitor' in the coffin that comes out of nowhere and will leave audiences questioning Paul's actions in scenes that follow. But even with that small bump in an otherwise smooth road, Buried remains a riveting production that's undeniably disturbing and a unique moviegoing experience.
Buried was directed by Rodrigo Cortes and is rated R for language and some violent content.
Theatrical Release: September 24, 2010 (limited) and October 8, 2010 (wide)