If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American private contractor stationed in Iraq, awakens to find himself entombed in a box beneath six feet of sand and stone with only a lighter, a knife and a cell phone at his disposal. After recovering from the initial shock, Paul does what anybody would… he frantically dials every number he can think of to find someone who can help him out, thus triggering the start of several small relationships that will lead to his horrific fate or to his salvation.
Three external forces (relationships) play a significant role in the well-being of Paul Conroy:
1. HIS CAPTORS – Throughout the course of the film, Paul is contacted by the people responsible for his burial with assorted demands that, if met, could possibly lead to his release.
2. HIS EMPLOYERS – Unable to find his emergency number, Paul contacts the home office of the company he works for, escalating from one representative to the next with repeated questions and, more frustrating for Paul, repeated answers.
3. HIS RESCUE TEAM – Paul manages to get the number for a CIA field office that puts him in touch with Dan Brenner, head of the anti-terrorism task force assigned to find him. He says all the right things, but Paul doubts his chances of success.
Time ticks away, the air grows thin, and Paul’s sanity starts to fade into the ether, much like the charge on his cell phone… trickling closer and closer to “empty”. In 90 minutes, Paul will either be sucking in the sweet, sandy desert air or he will remain… buried.
There are two different faces to Buried. The first is the impression you get upon seeing the trailer or the poster hanging in the theater lobby. It’s a very claustrophobic thriller. An isolated character caught in a dire situation that can only be rescued by the grace of God… or some other outside influence. The audience instantly identifies with Paul and is effectively drawn in and emotionally invested in his plight.
The second face of Buried is its unabashed examination of “the system” (being the American government’s structure in Iraq) and how it’s ultimately flawed when it comes to helping our people there - be they military or civilian. Both faces must be strong in order to come together to create one successful identity for this film. And strong they are, due, in no small part, to Ryan Reynolds’ incredible performance.
Much like Tom from Jack Finney’s short story “Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket”, Paul Conroy spends the entire story opening himself up completely for the audience. All of his anger, his fear, and his sadness displayed never more than mere inches away from the camera. At such close proximity, the camera virtually dissects an actor and tests the limits of their ability. It definitely lowers the tolerance on a viewer’s “bullshit” meter… which, upon Mr. Reynolds’ portrayal, I could smell none.
On paper, watching a man in a box for an hour and a half is a boring concept. Limited space dictates the need for a more dynamic and creative approach. In order to preserve the tension of the film while giving the audience a sense of motion, Director Rodrigo Cortés adopts an approach much like Hitchcock’s method on his production of Rope, incorporating slide-away panels that are quickly and easily replaced allowing for continuous shots crossing the span and width of the entire “coffin”.
Buried is a brilliant film, seamless in its technique and absolutely chilling in its presentation. Unfortunately, there were moments where I felt like the Paul Conroy character simply existed for the writers to torment a little bit more than was absolutely necessary. I’m not sure if I can properly put it into words, but the movie definitely hit points where it bordered on Saw style “torture porn”.
If you can manage to not get hung up on that little hiccup though, you’ll find Buried to be not only the highlight of Ryan Reynolds’ acting career, but also one of the most creative and original movies of 2010.