Ryan Reynolds proves his worth in the year’s best thriller.
A black screen appears, and complete silence is slowly broken by the shallow breathing of someone we cannot see. A few moments later we hear the sounds of panic, and banging around, and though the screen is still black, we know what is happening and our own bodies begin to react just as the person on screen is reacting. What if you awoke to complete darkness, bound and gagged, and realized that there were only a few inches of maneuverability around you in every direction. Panic sets in and you immediately relate with just how intense things are going to get. A new sound arises, a lighter, and we now have a face to put to the fear, as a small flame ignites inside the small coffin, and we realize how grave the situation truly is.
These are the opening moments to Buried, a suspense/thriller that keeps you on edge for the entire duration of the film to the point where your muscles are actually tense when you stand up at the end of it. It’s been two hours since I left the theater and my nerves are still shot. From the moment the film begins your breath is taken away, just as it is for Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), a truck driver working in Iraq who’s been kidnapped and wakes up trapped inside a wooden coffin; and all this time after I still find myself taking short breaths when thinking back to what I just witnessed.
The film is masterfully shot, and edited together perfectly. The entire story relies heavily on the viewer being inside the casket with Conroy, feeling the exact emotions that he feels, and the same confinement he finds himself in. In this instance it succeeds immeasurably, as even though we’re free to get up and move around any time we please, it’s almost impossible to take yourself out of what’s happening on screen and imagine being able to do anything but watch Conroy as he tries to survive.
The entire film takes place inside the coffin, and wonderful camerawork and direction makes this small space feel claustrophobic, while also never missing out on the perfect shot, angle or emotional response. There are multiple times when the camera pulls back, and we witness the coffin in its entirety, surrounded by nothing but darkness, showing us just how tight things are in this small space. The shots are obviously done with no lid on the casket, but as the camera zooms back in, and falls back to the side of Conroy, we see the lid back on the coffin, and any small freedom that we may have felt is taken away seamlessly.
Obviously lighting is a factor when a film takes place entirely in a coffin, though this obstacle is covered by the kidnappers, who, due to their plan, arm Conroy with a few needed essentials to help keep the screen lit. From his Zippo lighter, to a couple of glow sticks and a broken flashlight, Conroy never finds himself truly in the dark. Of course, the question of the fire eating away at what little air he likely has will enter your mind; however, this is also touched upon during a phone conversation Conroy is having with someone (before he realizes he has the other lighting options), where he explains that he knows it’s using up oxygen, but it’s just so dark without it. While the question did pop into my head before it was explained, I quickly came to the same realization that Conroy eventually explains, and understand that if I were in the same situation, pure darkness would just make things that much worse.
So how can an entire 100+ minute film take place in a coffin with only one actor and still keep your interest? Well, that’s where the cell phone above comes in. After waking up, Conroy hears a vibrating sound, and quickly realizes that he’s been buried with a cell phone. The instructions, and screens are all in a foreign language, though enough of a signal is available so that Conroy can send and receive calls. He soon finds out the reason for the phone being left with him is so that he can contact those back home and attempt to get the ransom the kidnappers want for him.
The calls that take place throughout the film send Conroy on quite an emotional roller-coaster, and Reynolds does an absolutely fantastic job of relaying these emotions onto the audience. Whether he be trying to get in touch with his loved ones back home, or trying to find someone in law enforcement, or the government who might be able to help save him, feelings range from sadness, to anger, to helplessness, to hope. Reynolds should be commended for his work here, as the believability he gives to the direness of the situation at all times is superb, and his raw talent really shines through.
Over the course of the film, the odds need to be constantly stacked against the hero, and while things start out pretty hopeless to begin with, we soon learn as time goes on that things can always get worse. Writer Chris Sparling really gets it right, and makes sure that the viewer can never calm down for a moment through the entire experience.
Director Rodrigo Cortes makes his feature film debut here and his direction is brilliant here; it would have to be in order to make this film work as well as it does. There are some beautifully shot portions of the film, where the camera pulls away from Conroy and the casket, slowly and grimly, usually after something drastic has just occurred, before the screen fades to black as if it were a theatrical stage production and a scene was coming to a close. It’s at these moments where you almost feel the desire to stand up and applaud as you would in such a stage show, though you’re so quickly snapped back into the deadly situation that reality kicks back in, and the thought leaves you as quick as it came, replaced once again by fear-fueled adrenaline.
Buried is the type of film you wonder why studios don’t get more strongly behind. With a limited release, few will get to experience Buried theatrically, and it’s a shame because it truly is an intense, emotional experience that not many films leave you with these days. If you do get the chance, be sure not to miss out, as suspense/thrillers don’t get much better than this.
Director: Rodrigo Cortes Notable Cast: Ryan Reynolds Writer(s): Chris Sparling
Brendan Campbell was here when Inside Pulse Movies began, and he’ll be here when it finishes - in 2012, when a cataclysmic event wipes out the servers, as well as everyone else on the planet other than John Cusack and those close to him. Brendan’s the #1 supporter of Keanu Reeves, a huge fan of popcorn flicks and a firm believer that sheer entertainment can take a film a long way. He currently resides in Canada, where, for reasons stated above, he’s attempting to get closer to John Cusack.