I have a deep seeded love of independent cinema; the low budgets and constraints really give filmmakers the chance to use their creativity in more natural ways than having a big bloated budget; in which case the easy answer when you’re backed in a corner is “Eh, just throw some CGI in and move on.” Beyond my love of independent films I have an equally pleasant relationship with films that employ minimal setting or more specific in BURIED’s case, one setting. The question facing me when I sat down to watch the one man show was rather or not there would be enough substance to entertain me for 90 minutes, and the answer is an emphatic, yes. BURIED is more than just a one trick pony, it’s a nail biting thriller that packs a punch I don’t think I fully expected.
Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a truck driver contracted to work in Iraq. His convoy was attacked and he was knocked unconscious only to awake in a wooden coffin buried underground with a knife, two glow sticks, flashlight, a small flask of water, a Zippo and a cell phone with half battery worth of power. Paul has to work against the clock with a dwindling air supply to find a way out of his claustrophobic nightmare alive.
I hesitate to give too much about any other specific plot details because as with all movies the less you know, the more rewarding the experience is. I use the term rewarding loosely because there is a ton of very dark and tense material hit on here, so to call the film rewarding only refers to the effectiveness the primal emotions the film pulls from you. For a film that literally takes place in one spot, hearing that it is emotional compromising and physically draining is setting a high bar that I’m sure most will say is impossible for a film that confines you in a wooden box for the entire duration. I can’t promise everyone will love it, but those that let go and involve themselves in the film, will be gasping for breath by the end.
If Ryan Reynolds wasn’t already a household name amongst most female audiences with films like THE PROPOSAL or DEFINETLY, MAYBE I’d say he turns in a star making performance. The statement is more than true, but here he’s not trying to be your typical macho heartthrob or an egotistical bad boy, he’s simply a man trying to make a living and is thrust into a horrible situation and just wants to get home to his wife and son alive. To say that you can’t sympathize with his character even when he’s yelling and cussing at people on the phone seems impossible; I found myself on more than one occasion saying that I would have reacted the same way in these moments of panic, desperation and frustration, which is something every person can relate to in times of high stress. You feel his pain and sadness when he’s playing phone tag with loved ones and being put on hold while the clock is ticking and no one taking his situation as seriously as he is. Reynolds more importantly doesn’t feel like an actor, he feels like he put his heart and soul into the character, making him feel real, which makes the performance even more unforgettable.
With all the things working against the film you would think there’s no way that a performance alone can carry a 90 minute film and have no action or tension to sustain it. Worry not; the tension in the film is unreal, utilizing the score and sound effects in all the right ways to instill that sense of dread on the viewers. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way to keep us on the edge of our seats and attention focused on the screen, uncertain of what is going to happen next. The second you assume you know how this will all turn out we get another piece of information to send us down another path. The film unfolds tremendously; we know nothing about Paul except for every bit of info that’s unveiled little by little until the very last second. I came out of the theater breathing heavy and hands shaking from clenching my fists in one of the most thrilling, intense and emotionally charged endings of the year.
The film though tense and unforgettable is not without some slow lumbering moments that usually follow the more suspenseful scenes. I’ve never been the political type, so this statement will be very brief, but I definitely got an extreme anti-war sentiment throughout the course of the film, along with a very venomous point of view towards the way “situations such as Paul’s” are handled; which I think becomes obvious so I’m not eluding to the fact that it’s a subtle message. Also, if you’ve ever been curious how anyone could pull of an action scene just within the confines of a wooden coffin the BURIED will show you just that, and it’s done amazingly well, proving that a big budget and top notch CGI are no replacement for professionally staged practical know how.
With BURIED Rodrigo Cortes has put together one tightly scripted, emotional and incredibly suspenseful single location thrill ride. The film devastated me in a way that I haven’t been able to shake since seeing it. It is easily one of the most memorable thrillers in recent years and will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater. Simply put, BURIED will pull you in deep and leave you gasping for air.