In Buried, “thinking outside the box” is thinking inside the box. This film is a claustrophobic, frantic piece of gut-wrenching minimalist cinema that will nail you to your seat. Rodrigo Cortes is a masterful director, giving us a film that is cerebral, but also tensely suffocating. Cortes is stylish enough to keep the audience interested, despite the camera being trapped in the box with the protagonist, and Ryan Reynolds, as Paul Conroy, proves that he’s more than just a funny guy with effective looks.
The decision to not shoot this film documentary style works very well, as it gives Cortes opportunities to heighten the tension or highlight the drama with an active camera. Whether it’s a close-up of a rusted nail or the moist blood on Paul Conroy’s neck or a bird shot of Paul lit up in a slightly blue tint by his cell phone, the editing keeps boredom at bay. We are given new and interesting angles of the box, seeing it from the point of view of Paul’s emotions. Surprisingly, being trapped in a box is made to be artistic. Simply put, the editing and camera angles help us to easily feel what Paul feels.
Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, an Iraq-based American truck driver, gives arguably his best performance so far in his career. He projects Paul’s anger, heartbreak and even crazed humor in a purely genuine manner. Reynolds completely exposes the mechanisms of his emotions, as he is unfiltered while trapped in the wooden coffin as Conroy.
The plot of the film is simple, but what got Paul there and his struggle out of the death trap is engagingly complex. The story is told through Paul’s cell phone conversations with various people, such as his wife, his employer, the rescue team attempting to locate him, and the terrorists that put him underground. Writer Chris Sparling pens a script that is sharply relative and it infuses political angst into the script without having a scolding voice.
Overall, the film is wholly engaging, and is a fantastic exercise in minimalist cinema. Buried will leave many in a mercilessly twisted state.
Some viewers may not be entertained by watching one character trapped in a box for 90 minutes. This is an intense film, but almost all of the film is dialogue and performance driven. If that’s not that type of film you like, and you need to see the action, this film may not be for you.
There are also a few technical issues that are not so cleanly handled, but most of them can be forgiven so that the piece can fully work. The capabilities of the tools Paul has in the coffin may not be completely accurate, and that may take some people out of the film. The ending was also controversial, but it’s better to be controversial than safe.
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