Buried (2010)

7 Feb

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

When I die, I’ll have made sure that my body is cremated. I wouldn’t want a burial. This may sound a little ridiculous, but after hearing about certain miracles that (how do I put this, exactly?) bring people back from the dead. If I’m one of those people, then I would be buried alive, and I shudder to even think about others buried alive. But like I said, that’s probably a rarity. Though still, I’d prefer to be cremated.

It’s a truly frightening concept, being buried alive. There you are, in a dark cramped coffin. Underground. Barely any oxygen. A real sense of claustrophobia. You can scream…no one can hear you. All of that is covered in the film “Buried,” which is about a man who is kidnapped and placed in a wooden casket underneath the desert. It’s an engagingly gripping thriller.

Ryan Reynolds stars in a convincing, effective performance as Paul Conroy, a truck driver working in Iraq. As the movie opens, he awakens in the casket with only a Zippo lighter, a cell phone, a flashlight, and a pencil. The last thing he remembers is his convoy being attacked and his fellow drivers being shot at. While inside his own possible grave and knowing that there is no way out from inside, he realizes that he’s been captured and held for ransom by his attackers. The terrorists order him to ask the US embassy for five million dollars.

While all this is going on, Paul desperately calls many people for help—the police, the FBI, the hostage crisis handlers, his wife, everybody. It becomes very irritating when those are really supposed to help keep asking all sorts of idiotic questions and wasting what little time there is while Paul is down there. In fact, I don’t even know who’s more the villain—the terrorists or the people who are supposed to help him.

Probably the very best thing about “Buried” (and the most amazing) is that its story follows through only inside that coffin. Throughout the film’s 95-minute running time, we stay entirely with Paul. There are no flashbacks, no scenes that take place on the other side of the phone calls, and nothing even above ground. Perhaps that’s not the most amazing part—the most amazing part is that the film keeps the viewer’s attention and interest. There’s a great deal of atmosphere and mood, told right away by the opening scene.

That opening scene comes after an old-school credits sequence that, along with a heavy orchestral score, promises something massive. The first shot after that is complete darkness, followed a few seconds later by light breathing, some thumps, and finally a lighter igniting to show the fear in the main character’s eyes.

But “Buried” also probably wouldn’t be as effective without Ryan Reynolds’ performance. That’s an odd thing to say, because I don’t consider myself a fan of his. Reynolds’ comedic work does nothing for me—he seems too bland and uncharismatic. But in this serious, dark role, he’s perfect. He brings about every right emotion, he’s absolutely credible, and is easy company for 95 minutes. Since we spend our time in the coffin, the other characters in this film are mainly voiceover roles, played by actors Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, and Erik Palladino.

The more claustrophobic you are, the less “Buried” is going to appeal to you. But this is an unforgettable, impactful thriller that gives me more reason as to why I would prefer to be cremated.

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