ReappreciationSociety: Buried


Buried, a claustrophobic chest thumper from director Rodrigo Cortes, will leave you shocked and awed, both at its technical and suspensful audacity, and its ace in the hole leading (only) man performance from Ryan Reynolds.

That’s right, it’s just Reynolds. In a box, underground. For ninety minutes. The ultimate survival flick. You haven’t seen this many sweaty stubbled extreme close-ups since Leone’s heyday.

Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, who wakes hands bound in a dark wooden box underground. The only light he gets comes from: a zippo lighter, a half-charged mobile phone, two glow sticks and a torch. And that is mostly how the film is lit, all within that wooden surround. No cgi, no tricks.

There are no cut aways to the outside world to soften the impact. We learn quickly from his phone conversations with various other parties that he is a civilian truck driver, a contractor in Iraq whose convoy was ambushed, and he has been kidnapped and buried. Early on it’s not without a certain grim humour. When asked by someone what the kidnappers will do if he doesn’t make the hostage video they want he snaps “or else he’ll take me to Sea World”.

It’s up to Conroy to try and get out and face a few uncomfortable truths about the attitude of the military / industrial machine operating in Iraq, and the Insurgents they caused to spring up. His only help is Dan Brenner of the Hostage Negotiation Group, whose efficacy and motives Paul begins to question as his plight deepens. Paul’s H.R contact delivers a gut punch in a recorded conversation with him as soil trickles through the damaged walls like the sands of time running out.

The only two times we’re out of the box is when we see inside his mental space as he despairs at his plight and the camera pulls back revealing endless walls reaching ever upward. “He (Reynolds) does the catalogue of extreme human emotions in this movie,” Cortes told Total Film. “From the primal fear of panic, to joy or anger, frustration, hope or surrender. From the very first moment, he was ready for everything.” The sense of isolation as a non-spanish speaker on the Barcelona set contributed to Reynolds’ portrayal of a desperate man alone.

This is by no means a static film. The camera prowls around the confined space, there are crane shots, zooms – it’s audacious, muscular, ballsy even. The script by Chris Sparling is spare and tense, and reads like a thriller in its own right (see for yourself here). It’s the kind of movie Hitchcock would have loved to have pulled off. But being the sadist he was, he’d probably stick one of his ice queens in the box.

Reynolds is superb, and clearly suffered for his art. He’s no superman, he’s not going to punch his way out. He’s by turns terrified, angry, snarkey, cunning, despairing. It’s just him, in almost real time. In my opinion, he deserved some sort of award nod here. He did this between Rom-com The Proposal and Green Lantern – sadly it’s that turkey and the other poor films like R.I.P.D that followed that he is remembered for now.

What’s in the box? Go sit in the dark if you dare to find out.

Originally posted 2014-01-16 23:15:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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