Buried Film Review

True originality is something that a mainstream cinema audience is all too rarely exposed to, unsurprising really considering the vast array of ideas committed to celluloid at one point or another. It is then with a sense of both intrigue and trepidation that viewers will approach Rodrigo Cortés’ ‘Buried’, a thriller boasting only one on-screen character who has been literally buried alive inside a coffin underground – and stays within said coffin for the entirety of the running time. On face value it is an idea that is so unbelievably simple yet one fraught with countless potential pitfalls that it really shouldn’t work. Yet somehow, through a careful balance of ingenuity, constraint and excellent casting; Cortés pretty much nails it (pun very much intended).

Paul Conroy is the man stuck inside the coffin; ostensibly an innocent party who is kidnapped and placed in his wooden prison after his truck convoy is ambushed in Iraq. With the action lit by only a Zippo lighter, the screen of a mobile phone, glow-sticks and a pocket-torch, Conroy has until his oxygen runs out to negotiate with voices on the other end of the phone to help secure his release by any means necessary. Ryan Rodney Reynolds is the man entrusted by Cortés to carry the piece, an actor with whom many will identify  primarily with comic roles, fans of Triple-R, however, will be well aware (thanks to the likes of ‘The Nines’ and even the lesser ‘Chaos Theory’) that the Canadian has the required acting chops to carry this one-hander. It’s a role that could have just as easily been handed to an unknown actor – and understandable for an indie on just a $3million budget – but when you have the opportunity to cast an emerging A-lister who effortlessly connects with an audience and has a handle on his craft on a par with another talented Ryan (Gosling), then frankly, why the hell not?

Shooting Reynolds from an array of inventive angles inside the coffin, Cortés induces such levels of claustrophobic tension that you’ll be on the edge of your seat, be it due to nervous anticipation or purely to escape the constraints of the armrests that begin to feel so confining. It’s all too plausible, all too possible, all so understandably frustrating. With every passing phone call the sense of both hope and despair grow in tandem as Paul edges closer to either death or salvation. It becomes nigh on impossible not to hang on his every desperate, panted breath; not to share his sense of rage as the man who is buried alive is perpetually put on hold or passed along onto another line. Cortés wisely resists the temptation to show us the events on the other end of the phone, instead relying on some sterling voice performances and allowing the audience not even the briefest of respites. This is a film that sticks unflinchingly to its basic premise and reaps the rewards as a result.

If there are to be any quibbles then they could be leveled at an unnecessary scene that slithers in just past the midway mark. Attempting to introduce more immediate danger within the coffin proves superfluous when the telephone conversations are already gripping, and curiously action-packed enough. What’s all the more engaging meanwhile is as Conroy fights a losing battle to conserve oxygen, his coffin is slowly transforming into a makeshift hour-glass. That being said, the scene still falls short of detracting from the finished article, but merely serves as two minutes that could have been lost from what is already a tight, well-constructed 94 minutes of nerve-shredding cinema. On the whole, it’s an unequivocal Hitchcockian-inspired success that not only serves as the year’s best thriller, but also has a thing or two to say about the individual effects of the war in the gulf and the shattered western economy.

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3 Responses

  1. AJ

    this was the most boring and rubbish film i have ever seen i was offended that this film was even allowed to be shown in the cinema because they should be paying us to watch it not charge us its an absolute outrage how bad this film is NEVER AND I MEAN NEVER WATCH THIS FILM it will only piss you off at how bad it is and waste 90 mins of your life!!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. Elena

    Actually, I completely agree with the review (except about the “slither part”; I thought everything that happened was within the boundaries of realism). Ryan Reynolds pulled this off fantastically. This film is similar to Phone Booth (Colin Farrell) in that there is only one ‘set’ but the action is still gripping. I would say this film is better than Phone Booth. Like Phone Booth though, you won’t really want to watch it more than once so I would suggest not watching it alone if you want to save a great film for a social gathering. Absolutely brilliant film, proves you don’t need car chases to build tension…!

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  3. The Rose

    This film was a masterpiece in script, acting & production! It’s unfortunate if some people are not able to appreciate the talent & skills involved in the making of it; those who are ‘bored’ by it should consider the plight of the poor bloke inside the box! and be thankful it wasn’t them, that they could ‘escape’ from their cinema seat at any time… Yes, I know it was only a story but nevertheless a feasible one, and who knows? this dreadful fate may well have befallen some people around the world, for all we know :/ Besides which, any actor who’s prepared to spend hours cooped up in such a confined place for the public’s viewing pleasure, has my admiration!
    The angles, lighting, voices, acting, the inspired writer, are all to be commended. I hope they get awards for this one. It made compelling viewing. And the ending…..!!! Well, watch it and find out – but Bravo! Left me breathless.

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