Buried is an experimental film, one where plot is almost non-existent and ideas are used as a sense of progression. The plan to create a one man show set inside a box has been attempted in various movies before but not to this extent. Buried has one actor and one setting for an entire ninety-five minutes. If this sounds as intriguing as it is superficial then a surprise is in store for you. Buried has some nifty tricks up its supposedly one-dimensional sleeve.
The movie begins with Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) awakening in a wooden coffin looking just as confused as we are. In his possession; a cell phone with only three bars of battery left, a Zippo, a flask filled with alcohol, anxiety pills, a pencil, and a pocket knife. Paul immediately goes to work by using his cell phone to call everyone he knows for help. We discover he’s a truck driver who was working in Iraq when his convoy was attacked by a group of hostiles. Paul frantically tries to discover who put him in his current situation and who he can trust to get him out in time. This is where the so-called “plot” unravels with events happening like bad reception, ransom videos, and an unwelcome visitor popping up to create even more problems for Paul.
What makes Buried work beyond its initial premise is how the film’s director, Rodrigo Cortes, presents the movie as a thriller. He uses a musical score composed by Victor Reyes that makes the movie much more exciting than it is at times. After all, it’s just one man in a box. Reyes score changes from soft to electric creating tense moments where time is of the essence. Along with the soundtrack being essential, we also have Ryan Reynold’s performance which holds the whole film together like glue.
I never really liked or loathed Reynolds before watching this film, to me he was just another young star who appeared in movies I didn’t care for. His work in Buried is unmistakably effective. The camera is on him in every shot so he has no choice but to become Paul Conroy and convey how being buried alive is truly awful. At the same time his character is someone who doesn’t give up and is quite clever for a truck driver who you initially think is just another normal guy. Reynolds succeeds in making Buried a realistic nightmare that is easier to watch because of his unexpected humor at times as well and the raw emotion he expresses.
I really don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone by detailing what Paul does in the coffin to survive and who he phones. Part of the appeal of Buried is the mystery of what’s happening outside of the coffin. Since the film stays fixed beneath the ground we rely on Paul to discover the truth and ask the questions for us. What he knows is the same as what we know and the film presents some twists using this logic without coming across as contrived.
Together, Reynolds and Cortes do a fantastic job of making us feel just like Paul is, tightly fitted within a coffin under the earth, trying to stay alive by any means necessary.
Buried is a one of a kind experience that goes well beyond just a movie with a neat idea. It’s a thriller that really works and is one of the best films I've seen all year.