Buried is original in its making. It tells a compelling story with a solid plot and enough emotion to keep us going, all in the confinements of a wooden box. The simple brilliance of Buried is that the camera never leaves the coffin-like box for the entire 95 minutes. This might sound dull after more than five minutes, but director Rodrigo Cortés and writer Chris Sparling keep the movie entertaining, building up to a nail-biting climax.
Ryan Reynolds stars as Paul Conroy, an American truck driver working for a private construction contractor in Iraq. As the film starts he wakes in a coffin-like wooden box buried under the ground. He finds a Blackberry and a lighter along with him in the box. Then he receives a call from the hostage takers who ambushed his convoy earlier that day. He has 90 minutes to get his ransom money, or he will run out of oxygen and be left to die buried in the desert. Conroy gets in contact with hostage negotiators and his friends back home in the States as he attempts to gather the money necessary. Certain twists in the road occur as Paul’s employers call, or when the kidnappers request him to film a ransom video on the cell phone.
Ryan Reynolds does a good job of leading us through the story, especially considering his limited space to act in, we rely heavily on voice acting, facial expressions, and noises heard when the lights go out. While Reynolds is the only actor shown on screen, a small handful of other actors are heard through Conroy’s telephone conversations. Instead of showing the 911 calls on the other end, or seeing the rescuers attempt to dig for Paul in the desert, all we see is Paul Conroy. We are right there in the coffin with him the whole time, and as an audience we get that feeling of suffocation and anticipation as we hear what goes on at the other end of the phone calls.
Director Rodrigo Cortés has directed a great thriller. He utilizes the space of the elongated coffin to explore the various viewpoints, including some from spaces outside the coffin looking in. The lighting is also changed up every once in a while to mirror progresses in the plot. As Paul awakens, the screen is dark for several seconds at a time. As he begins to understand his situation the coffin lights up with the flickering beams from the lighter, and as plots twists begin to be thrown into the mix Paul discovers some multi-colored glow sticks which give the wooden box a different feeling.
The film ends in a climatic moment full of emotion as rescuers attempt to save Paul while sand pours into the coffin. Buried is a simple film, and is far from perfect. That being said, it utilizes the setting to a great level, creating one of the most tense and well-created thrillers of the year, all taking place in a wooden box under the desert.