Film Review: Buried

95 minutes of Ryan Reynolds trapped in a box shouldn’t work. 95 minutes of any actor in such a confined space shouldn’t work. Yet Buried does, and to great effect.

American truck driver Paul Conroy wakes up buried in a coffin following an ambush in Iraq. Armed with only a mobile phone, Paul faces a race against time to get help before he runs out of oxygen…

What makes Rodrigo Cortés’ film so watchable is the continual tension. Paul is in a perilous situation, but can do very little to help himself. Despite this, the action is frequent and never allows a lull in pace. Buried is inventive in creating tension in a very sedentary situation.

Cortés plays on primal fears in the film, which can make for uncomfortable viewing. The idea of being buried alive is such a universal fear that pretty much all viewers will be able to relate to this terror. Elsewhere, Buried features common fears realised. One of these in particular is performed with torturous effect; even viewers well versed in gore may find this scene difficult to watch.

Camera work and lighting are utilised effectively to convey the claustrophobia and panic of the situation. Cortés has worked adroitly to engross the viewer, given the limited space. Buried combines numerous angles and types of shots to give a sense of just how trapped Paul is. Coupled with this is the deft use of sound. Music is used sparingly, leaving plenty of natural sound. The sole sound of Paul’s voice in the dark expresses the isolation of the situation.

Reynolds is utterly relatable as Paul because he is just an ordinary guy. He is not a soldier or in any way involved in the Iraq conflict, he just happens to be unlucky. Thus, it is easy to understand his fear and frustration. As the film goes on, a few more details about his character are revealed. The filmmakers, however, are astute to not delve too deep into his persona. The more Paul functions as ‘any man’, the more the focus remains on the situation itself.

With a title sequence conjuring images of Saul Bass’ designs for Hitchcock, Cortés pays tribute to the clear influence the master of suspense has had on his work. With Buried, the Spanish director shows a flair for both homage and ingenuity, creating a gripping thriller.

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