First Night Flicks: Buried

Buried (2010)

Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés
Starring: Ryan Reynolds
Rated R for language and some violent content

People who talk about movies often talk about an actor being able to “carry a film.” It is very rarely an earned sentiment.  An actor my be able to save a film by making it more watchable, but very few are tasked with actually carrying a film – with being the one thing the audience must relate to, or believe, in order for the film to work.

Ryan Reynolds carries Buried.

Mr. Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a truck driver for a company contracted by the military to deliver supplies in the rebuilding effort in Iraq in 2006. One day, his convoy is ambushed; most of his co-workers are killed in the process. He wakes up disoriented, bound and buried in an old wooden coffin. He’s not sure who put him there or why, but he does know he has to act quickly. His abductors have left him a cell phone, which they use to contact him and make demands. Paul uses the phone to try to get some help. Unfortunately, his abductors have also emptied his wallet, taking not only his ID, but the safety number with which he was provided should anything happen to him.

Told in real time, Buried is a harrowing, horrifying 90 minute study of desperation and terror. Paul must decide between listening to the demands of the one kidnapper who contacts him (José Luis García Pérez) and following the advice given to him by Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson), the man in charge of finding him in Iraq, while battling his own anxiety and fear. Staring down his own mortality, already inside his potential coffin, Paul must question and discover how far he is willing to go to survive.

The film opens in total darkness with a silence that seems to last forever. We begin the film in the coffin with Paul: just as lost, just as blind, just as disoriented. For the first part of the film, I kept expecting the director to cut away from Paul’s ordeal inside the coffin and show us the rescue effort being mounted on his behalf, or to provide us with a flashback to the convoy’s ambush. I was happily surprised that he never did. We stay in the coffin with Paul for the entirety of the film, which is why the film works, and works brilliantly. By staying in the coffin with Paul, Mr. Cortés allows the tension to build to a boiling point that leaves the viewer breathless. In fact, Mr. Cortés is so skilled at building this tension, that the viewer is not even aware how intense it is until the film is over.

Of course, when you have a film where only one actor/character is on screen, alone, for the majority of the film, casting is paramount. There are two things to consider when casting a film such as this: 1) you need an actor that is inherently likable so the audience will root for them and 2) you need a good, strong actor who can handle the demands of the part. I knew Ryan Reynolds fulfilled the first part of this equation; I was pleasantly surprised that he also fulfilled the second part. I can only hope that this film leads to more opportunities to impress us with his acting abilities.

For now, I’m content to be impressed with both Mr. Cortés and Mr. Reynolds for accomplishing the unenviable task of taking what could have ultimately been a very boring film and transforming it into something riveting.

Buried marks the second film in as many weeks that nearly caused a visceral reaction due to the dramatic tension. I hope this isn’t a prevailing trend for the Fall movie season.

Posted on September 25, 2010 at 10:06 by Lyssa Spero · Permalink
In: Movies, Reviews · Tagged with: , , ,

One Response

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  1. Written by Arkonbey
    on September 30, 2010 at 12:24
    Permalink

    The concept of this film intrigued me since I first saw the trailer. Your review has added to my intrigue but, I can’t shake the feeling, however, that 90 minutes would be too long and I would get done feeling that I wasted my time.

    Perhaps there should be a type of movie length that is to a feature film as a novella is to a novel…

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