Paul Conroy wakes up in darkness. Stretching out, he finds himself surrounding by wooden boards. He pounds on them, but they do not give. His hands come across a lighter and he discovers that he is in a wooden coffin. As he beats on the wall grains of sand briefly come through the cracks – he is buried. He is a truck driver in Iraq and the last thing he can remember is his convoy being attacked. In the coffin he also finds a pen, a cell phone that only has a half charged battery and wavering signal, a small knife and a few other odds and ends.
Making several phone calls, he is first greeted by answering machines. When he finally connects with a people, he finds himself frustrated by the run around he is given. To top it off, a man calls demanding five million dollars by 9:00pm (it’s a little after 6:00pm in the beginning of the movie) or else he’ll leave Paul to die. Running out of time and air, Paul only has a cell phone to communicate and the hope that he will be found before it is too late.
Going in to Buried, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had heard a lot of positive things about it, and I knew it was about a guy stuck in a coffin. Two things worried me though. The first was Ryan Reynolds. While I liked him in The Nines, I never got the sense that he was a great actor. Second, I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle the whole coffin thing. Was the whole film going to take place there? Would there be flashbacks or cutaways to the outside world? I was impressed with the handling of each of these issues.
Yes, the entire film takes place in the coffin. So now we’re stuck in a coffin for 90 minutes with Reynolds, and I happy to say that this is easily one of the best performance’s I’ve seen from Reynolds. Throughout the movie we only know what Paul Conroy knows. We have no idea how far the US hostage negotiator who he makes contact with is coming with the negotiations, or if they’re even happening at all. We are as frustrated as him when his signal cuts out and we can feel claustrophobia growing.
Director Rodrigo Cortés and writer Chris Sparling wonderfully weave this film with tension. The first thing which drew me in was the use of ‘ticking time bombs.’ Even before we know about the ransom demand, we know Paul will run out of air at some point. However, as the film progresses, this becomes more dire. Then events begin to occur that make Paul’s situation worse. Throughout the entire movie the tension continually grew until it reached a thoroughly engaging crescendo. During the climax, I could feel my heart racing.
Overall, Buried succeeds on a technical level as well. The camera work was quite impressive, and while there were a few shots which didn’t work for me (they were creative attempts) but on the whole I was impressed with the variety of shots, and the way the cinematography supported the film and the emotional state of Paul.
If you are a stickler for details, there will be some suspension of disbelief involved. Paul uses the lighter to provide light for most of the movie, something sure to eat up oxygen. Also, the fact that he receives any sort of cell signal stretches the realms of plausibility. Overall, neither of these bugged me, largely because they were needed to drive the story forward. Without the phone, nothing could’ve happened, and the lighter did provide a needed light source that didn’t run on precious battery life. The thing that did bug me was that I was not only expected to believe that Paul could receive a cell signal, but that he could upload and download media files in a matter of seconds. That pushed it a bit for me.
If you are highly claustrophobic, you may not enjoy this film as much. But it is a well scripted and fast paced thriller which never got boring, and which got me invested in the main character.