Review: Buried

Posted: September 30, 2010 in Film Reviews
Tags: , , ,

Ryan Reynolds in a scene from BuriedA lot of people remember the season five finale of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation that Quentin Tarantino directed in 2005: CSI Nick Stokes was buried somewhere in the desert while the rest of the team desperately tried to rescue him before he ran out of air. It was a couple of the most gripping hours television had ever seen. But what if you eliminated the action outside the box, narrowing focus to just the victim – would it still be thrilling? Buried‘s answer to this question is affirmative.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is not ready to die. But when he wakes up six feet underground in Iraq with no idea of who put him there or why, life for the truck driver and family man instantly becomes a hellish struggle for survival. Buried with only a cell phone and a lighter, his contact with the outside world and ability to piece together clues that could help him discover his location are maddeningly limited. Poor reception, a rapidly draining battery and a dwindling oxygen supply become his worst enemies in a tightly confined race against time, fighting panic, despair and delirium. Paul has only ninety minutes to be rescued before his worst nightmare comes true.

This is likely the most challenging role of Reynolds’ career. The slightest diversion from his character would ruin the whole picture. Fortunately, Reynolds is flawless and captivating throughout. The rollercoaster of emotions he experiences in just 90 minutes are eerily sincere. His ability to drive every second of the film, occasionally with just his breathing in the darkness, is stirring. His performance ensures the audience is trapped in the coffin with Paul from beginning to end.

As the narrative progresses, Paul’s story exposes some jaw-dropping revelations that resonate even the following day. His only contact to the world outside the box proves to be a blessing and a curse from one moment to the next. However, the casting of Robert Paterson (who sounds like Michael Caine) as the hostage specialist is incredibly fitting because of his natural ability to sound reassuring and calming regardless of what may actually be occurring. Furthermore, the slightest hint of emotion in his voice implies so much.

Filming with such restrictions is also an immense challenge for filmmakers to deliver a quality, finished picture. Director Rodrigo Cortés accepts this challenge and meets its requirements. His framing and lighting choices work well and he does an excellent job ramping up the tension in the film to the last second. The only violation of real space is a dramatic zoom out that shows Paul from approximately six feet overhead.  In addition, writer Chris Sparling’s script is complete through its well chosen interactions and realistic dialogue. Though not quite in real time, the film’s attempt to remain so enhances the drama of the situation.

It’s impossible not to empathize with Paul as slivers of hope are consistently replaced by some form of bad news. This relentless struggle makes Buried a difficult but exceptional viewing experience.

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