Buried (2010) dir. Rodrigo Cortes
Starring: Ryan Reynolds
By Alan Bacchus
‘Buried’ is one of the most remarkable executions of a high concept idea I’ve seen put to film in a long while. Spanish director, Rodrigo Cortes gains inspiration from Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense who frequently shot his films with self-imposed restraints as a way of streamlining story and suspense.
‘Buried’ takes a note from Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” which took place entirely in as the title suggests, a lifeboat. That was an admirable venture for Hitch and his ability to create innumerable camera angles from this tight space, without being repititive and thus boring his audience. Cortes has even tougher assignment, shoot an entire movie inside a 7 foot by 3 foot box, with only one on screen character.
“Buried” starts with a great screenplay by Christopher Sparling, an American from Rhode Island who has engineered the great claustrophobic drama. The location cannot get any tighter than this. Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy who wakes up in a wooden box in the ground. As a truck driver in Iraq whose convoy had recently been attacked he can only assume he’s been captured by insurgents or terrorists. Curiously there’s blackberry, a flashlight, a knife, a pen and a flask in the box with him.
The cell phone even gets reception, and so his calls for 911, FBI, his employer and anyone else he can get a hold off has to overcome to absurdity of this extreme situation. Using ingenuity, common sense and just plain old persistence Paul gains as much information as he can about his location, his kidnappers and the cause of incarceration in order to engineer his escape.
Cortes miraculously makes 90 mins in a box as thrilling any Indiana Jones film. In fact, ‘Buried’ could even be considered an extension of the traditional cliffhanger serial. Over the course of 90mins in real time Paul has to surmount a number of increasingly dangerous hurdles, bindings on his hand, language barriers on the phone, dying flashlight and cell phone batteries, all dramatized with spinetingling suspense. At one point a snake even enters the box producing an intense raucous standoff between man and snake.
Ryan Reynolds is a tour de force, sustaining 90minutes in a box moving himself through a wide range of emotions - fear, pain hope, humour, sadness etc etc. And as photographed by Eduard Grau (“A Single Man”), the small space is given a number of different lighting schemes based on the mood of Reynolds' character.
‘Buried’ works on levels deeper than the high concept idea. Underneath the drama of the situation is a stimulating corporate indictment of big business' irresponsibility to its employees and the US government’s contradictions of its ‘leave no man behind’. And so, by the end, “Buried” reveals itself as more cynical than a traditional genre film and one of the most terrifying movie experiences in a long while.