Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Iraq based Truck driver Paul Conroy wakes up in the dark. He flicks on his lighter to find himself buried in a wooden coffin, with a cell phone and a torch. What follows is a race against time as Paul tries desperately to find out why he is there, and get himself rescued.
The last movie I reviewed was Devil, a movie set almost entirely in an elevator. Almost entirely, that is. Going one step further, Buried manages to contain its entire 90-minute running time within the confines of a small, wooden coffin. That it does this without once slipping into tedium is nothing short of a miracle. This success is achieved due to two things: Rodrigo Cortés’ direction and Ryan Reynolds performance. Without these two aspects working in tandem, Buried would have failed miserably.
Logically, it should be very easy to hate Ryan Reynolds. The guy is successful, good-looking and has the kind of abs you usually only see in a Marvel comic, but what he also has is an easy-going charm that, to-date, has defined his work. It’s a huge credit to him then that he ditches the reliance on all the above when called on to carry an entire movie alone. For 90 minutes Reynolds is dirty, crazed, barely visible and utterly convincing. Rodrigo Cortés, in only his second feature, does a fantastic job of keeping things visually interesting given the confines he has to work with and squeezes every ounce of claustrophobia from those confines. Within 10 minutes of Buried’s opening, you feel as if you are laying in that coffin yourself. By the end, you just want to run outside and kiss the ground.
Another thing that makes Buried stand out is the plot itself. While it would have been fairly easy to stick to familiar thriller territory when dealing with the reasons why Paul Conroy was buried alive, the decision to place him and the events surrounding him in occupied Iraq allows the movie to make some small comment on the state of affairs in Saddam’s former country. While this may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s a brave move and one which screenwriter Chris Sparling never allows to become preachy or overwhelm the action.
Buried is one of those movies where everything that has to work does work. A career-best turn from Reynolds should see him emerge from the cocky-wiseguy shtick into more accomplished roles and Cortés will be one to watch in the future. If there is a downside to this movie, it is only that it perhaps signposts the final outcome a little too clearly, but at least it is the outcome the movie deserves. Much recommended.