Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), a U.S. contractor working in Iraq driving trucks. After an attack by a group of Iraqis he wakes to find he is buried alive inside a coffin - somewhere in the desert. With only a lighter and a cell phone Paul tries to contact his wife and kids and the outside world in general for help, while his captors - who left the cell phone with him for a sinister purpose - demand a huge ransom for his life.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Bravura filmmaking, certainly, Buried borrows techniques from great inventive filmmakers (director Rodrigo Cortés cites Hitchcock, Scorsese and Spielberg in his notes) but applies them to a claustrophobic horror story that drags us into a place of terror.
The film takes place entirely inside the buried coffin where Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself after an ambush in Iraq. A lowly truck driver, Paul doesn't comprehend why he's been treated this way - and why his civilian colleagues were killed. These elements kick start the visceral experience of the film for the audience, which has first been sensitised by several minutes of blackness; the only sound some muffled breathing, before Paul regains consciousness.
We are expected to join Paul in his cramped coffin for an exercise in panic control, cell phone frustrations and deadly fear. It happens in pretty much real time (he seems to doze off at one stage) and the sense of urgency escalates, slowly at first, rapidly at the end. We see Paul go through different kinds of emotional torture, from being unable to make contact with his family to being sent brutal videos by his captors. The filmmakers do everything right from a technical filmmaking point of view, inventing camera angles and action in such a confined space (a slightly exaggerated coffin).
Here are a few observations: first, mobile phone connection quality from under the desert in Iraq seems clearer and more efficient than around a few suburbs of Sydney, including mine. If I find the service provider I'll sign up.
Second, Paul's communication frustrations are not with the service but with people. This rings with the truth of experience (mine, certainly) to have calls answered by operators who have no empathy with the caller and just transfer you to someone else - where a voice mail answers. There are some black laughs around this theme in the film, knowing laughs of recognition.
Third, Paul's heartless, unscrupulous captors (we never see them, or anyone else, we just hear them) are simple criminals whose hostage taking is the only business sector in Iraq that's working well, as one character quips. They like to dress up their actions in the burqa of anti-American political sentiment, but it is a totally transparent and hypocritical cover.
Fourth, Paul's employer is portrayed as a heartless, unscrupulous organisation, presumably for editorial balance; is this moral equivalence? Discuss.
Finally, for all the care taken, you'll have to forgive a couple of bloopers, notably one to do with the little drinking flask Paul has with him, which seems to contain a liquid for every occasion, the other is another spoiler so I won't mention.
Do the filmmakers achieve what they intended? Yes. Is it meaningful? I'm not sure.
Email this article
CAST: Ryan Reynolds
VOICES: Robert Paterson, José Luis García Pérez, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, Warner Loughlin, Ivana Mino, Erik Palladino
PRODUCER: Adrian Guerra, Peter Safran
DIRECTOR: Rodrigo Cortés
SCRIPT: Chris Sparling
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Eduard Grau
EDITOR: Rodrigo Cortés
MUSIC: Victor Reves
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 7, 2010