When it comes to minimalist filmmaking Rodrigo Cortes’ 2010 film “Buried” takes the concept to new levels, all while making a very intense and psychologically draining movie. Starring Ryan Reynolds and only Ryan Reynolds for 95 minutes, although there are voiceovers from several phone calls, this is essentially a one-man show.
Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, an American truck driver working over in Iraq and as the title states he has been taken hostage and buried in a wooden coffin. This concept has been done before, but not quite like this. We never leave Paul and his tight confines for the duration of the film. He has a Zippo lighter, a cell phone, and a few other small objects. He deals with a number of people who are trying to help locate him as well as the kidnapper who demands five million dollars for his release. Since he is able to get a signal on his phone he is told he must not be buried very deep.
While we spend the entire movie with Paul, Director Cortes has deliberately added a few shots that completely take the viewer out of the story and breaks the illusion and claustrophobic environment. The camera pulls away from the coffin and just keep going until were well above the action. While this is an artistic choice from the director there are some problems that Paul gets into that will really test the movie's limits of believability. He obviously has a limited supply of air and the lighter he uses continues to suck it away. In the movies most preposterous scene, he wakes up after taking some anti-anxiety pills to find a snake slither out from inside his pants. He then douses the reptile in alcohol from a flask he has on him and lights it on fire. I’m sure this alone would kill him at least twice. But was this a hallucination? Near the end of the movie, he imagines the coffin door opening and being bathed in sunlight.
Paul is in constant contact with Dan Brenner who deals with contactor kidnappings and is in charge of coordinating his rescue. Dan tries to keep his spirits up but they both know it is very doubtful he will be found. Paul is also in contact with the kidnapper who keeps making more demands. Although “Buried” has its problems it is really quite intense and maintains a strong sense of panic and terror throughout. Ryan Reynolds really gives the performance of his life “so far” in this movie. It reminded me a little bit of Tom Hanks in “Castaway” although without the extreme body transformation. “Buried” is a movie you fully experience once and that’s enough.