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Thursday, 26 February 2015


Directed by: Rodrigo Cortes
Written by: Chris Sparling
Starring: Ryan Reynolds
Music by: Victor Reyes
Release date: September 24, 2010

The more claustrophobic among you may want to turn away now. Buried is a little indie thriller/horror film made with a measly sum of $2 million, and was released at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival to much acclaim. And rightfully so, because this isn't one you'll be forgetting any time soon. Buckle up, kids... this is a heavy one.

An American truck driver known as Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is ambushed, captured and buried alive in Iraq while delivering kitchen equipment on the job. Trapped underground, he has nothing but a cellphone with its language setting in Arabic, and a lighter. If Paul is to have any chance of survival, he'll have to persuade the U.S. Embassy to pay his capturer a ransom of $5 million. But the odds aren't in his favour and he'll have to act quickly, because if the ransom isn't paid by 9pm Baghdad time, then he'll run out of phone battery, and oxygen.

The first thirty seconds of this film are nothing but pitch-black darkness, as Paul wakes up, scrambles around and panics. That really tells you all you need to know about Buried, because this is not light viewing. This is an emotionally draining and genuinely distressing experience. Everything that could possibly go wrong for Paul, goes wrong. His phone is quickly running out of battery, and so often he calls and nobody picks up, or he gets through and still receives very little to no help. Buried throws everything it possibly can at both its audience and its very human central character with sadistic glee. Things can get immensley frustrating, but it (almost) always feels genuine. It's not all doom and gloom - there are some brief moments of comic relief that Reynolds delivers perfectly, but the fact that there's never an attempt to shy away from the terrifying concept of being buried alive means that this is an absolute rollercoaster of nightmarish proportions, and - considering its tiny budget and the fact that it was filmed entirely in a small wooden box - it must've been a real filmmaking challenge for its cast and crew.

There are two things that make Buried. The other we'll talk about later, but the first is the stellar direction from Rodrigo Cortes. There are some very clear Hitchcock homages and some of the shots here are simultaneously unusual and extremely impressive. There's a 360 degree pan that looks damn near impossible to pull off, and the claustrophobic nature of the coffin is utilised to an almost stifling degree. Camera trickery is fairly prevalent and, even though there is only one single setting in this entire film, the lighting is varied and dynamic enough to ensure that things never get visually dull.

Ryan Reynolds is one of the many examples of the prized good-looking white boy that Hollywood cherishes so much. As a result of this, along with far too many missteps in his career, many write him off or believe that he's simply the unluckiest man in Hollywood. Reynolds has been given far too many bad scripts - among other things - but even in potential-wasters such as Green Lantern, I had a hunch that he had more to offer than what his agent kept getting him.

Buried has proven exactly that.

His performance may not be a complete transformation ala Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, but Reynolds carries this movie entirely on his own. For ninety minutes, he does very little other than scream, sigh and cry as he fights for his life. There are no cheap flashbacks, and no presences from any other actors other than a few voices from his cell phone. Nobody else. Just him. And it's still gripping. It's a brave move and one that has paid off immensely, so much so that a fair amount of people believe that Reynolds was snubbed at the 2010 Academy Awards (that would've been a sight). But everything changes, and here's hoping that next year's practically-guaranteed hit, Deadpool, will give Reynolds his well-overdue big break.

Our one-man-show Paul isn't exactly a saint - as aforementioned, he feels like a real human being - and we never know whether it's his anxiety or quick temper that causes him to snap at those on the other line, but the way his "situation" unfolds here plays a large part in what makes Buried feel so authentic. Look past its somewhat concealed anti-war messsage, and the dehumanisation of our current society is showcased through Paul's frustration with technology: voicemail messages, ineffective helplines and the unwanted bureaucracy all seem to harbour zero sympathy for his condition. Because at the end of the day, he's just an average guy. He's just not important enough to warrant these people's attention. It's harrowing stuff.

Any complaints to be had about Buried are either minor or nitpicks, because Cortes and crew have created a huge something out of nothing. Buried rises far above the limitations of its production values and incredibly simple plot to give us a creative, heartwrenching and nailbiting product carried by an outstanding central performance. Of course, there will be those out there who are unable to appreciate what it sets out to do, but its boldness is absolutely essential in making Buried what it is: a potent, valiant triumph.