Review: Buried (2010)

Director: Rodrigo Cortés

****

There are certain truths that cannot be denied. Some people may sneer and deride, but there is no escaping the fact that Ryan Reynolds can act. For a number of years, his natural charisma and ability has elevated the mediocre likes of Just Friends and The Amityville Horror to a watchable and enjoyable level. Arguably, in the named examples he had the likes of Anna Farris and Melissa George to help him, but Buried demands that Reynolds hold the screen all on his own for the the entire 95 minutes. Hold it he does.

When contract worker Paul Conroy (Reynolds) awakens after an attack on his convoy in Iraq, he fins himself buried alive in a wooden coffin with nothing but a torch, a cigarette lighter and a cellphone with a rapidly-dying battery. Wisdom tells us that less is more, and director Rodrigo Cortés (making his English-language debut) takes this maxim to its limits. These may be Conroy’s last minutes, so he has to decide who to call with the limited time he’s got. While he calls his mother, wife, boss and the FBI, the tables are turned when his abductors call him demanding ransom. Buried twists and turns with breakneck speed, and as Conroy squirms and struggles in his coffin, you’ll squirm with him. Reynolds effectively captures the sheer frustration of the situation, though while he snaps and curses those on the other end of the phone, he never becomes unsympathetic. We desperately want him to survive, and this is due to Reynolds’ undeniable screen presence in his best performance yet. He’s backed up by solid voicework from Stephen Tobolowsky (as Conroy’s boss) and Robert Paterson (as a US State Dept. agent specialising in kidnapped civilians).

Buried is a film that many will admire, but may find it hard to actually like. A few slivers of humour aside, there is no let-up in the tension for either Conroy or the audience. With only the voices from the cellphone for company, the claustrophobia is amped up by DP Eduard Grau’s (A Single Man) tight close-ups and a masterful build-up of tension by Cortés. A scene with an unwanted visitor is one of the most tense scenes of the year.

Buried is a masterful thriller, an unrelenting nerve-shredder that burrows into your mind, refusing to escape. Does Conroy escape? That’d be telling, wouldn’t it? Best you go dig up the truth for yourself…

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