Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes has conducted a bold experiment in his new film, “Buried.” He shoots an entire film within a wooden box. He casts one actor. And he creates a terrifying masterpiece for a mere $3 million.
The movie opens with an unnerving, seemingly endless blank screen. Suddenly, it’s illuminated by the glow of a Zippo lighter. In its flame, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) realizes that he’s trapped underground in a makeshift coffin. As the horror sets in, Paul is dealt a ray of hope. A working cell phone is at his side.
Through a series of phone conversations we learn that Paul is a contract truck driver who’s been ambushed while working in Iraq. His captors have buried him alive in hopes of procuring a ransom via visuals on the cell phone. In desperation, he calls 911, the FBI, his employer and his wife. Frustratingly he’s met with voicemail, phone trees and inept bureaucrats (haven’t we all been there?). Life and death for Paul teeters on corporate and military indifference, and his future looks about as dim as his surroundings.
“Buried” is surprising on so many levels. Cortes (“The Contestant”) opts not to employ any action other than what occurs in Paul’s tomb. No flashbacks, no shots of people with whom he speaks, nothing that would suggest he’s even in Iraq. It works big time, because we as an audience experience exactly what Paul does in real time (95 minutes). There is no escape.
And who would have thought that Reynolds (“The Proposal”) was up to the task of starring solo in a confined space, in one never-ending close-up? Not me. I was floored by his gripping performance. This film requires such a range of emotions from an actor one can only speculate how Cortes was moved to cast Reynolds. But it was pure genius.
Obviously “Buried” is not going to entice the faint of heart or claustrophobics into theaters. But if you’re into suspense the caliber of Hitchcock, this experiment in terror will gnaw at your psyche long after the credits roll.
— Pam Nadon