Wednesday 25 April 2012

Movie Review: Buried (2010)

An exercise in gutsy filmmaking, Buried spends it's entire 94 minutes in a coffin. Director Rodrigo Cortes and star Ryan Reynolds combine to create an epic movie in a box, and an unforgettable experience.

Paul Conroy (Reynolds) wakes up in a dark box. A truck driver for a military logistics company in Iraq, Conroy has been captured after an insurgent ambush on his convoy. His captors have dumped him in a coffin and buried him alive in a shallow dirt grave. Buried with him is a gas lighter, a functioning Blackberry phone, a couple of pens, and a few other trinkets that he will discover near his feet.

Using the phone, Conroy desperately tries to rouse help by establishing contact with his family, the military, the FBI, and his employer. But more chilling are the incoming phone calls from his captors, demanding that he quickly arrange for a large ransom in exchange for freedom. Conroy is finally patched through to Dan Brenner (voice of Robert Paterson), a hostage rescue team leader. Brenner becomes a voice of hope, trying to locate Conroy's whereabouts in a race against time as oxygen and the phone battery both threaten to run out and the earth presses down against the coffin.

Filmed in Spain in just 17 days, Buried is a remarkable achievement. The thought of spending any time trapped in a coffin is horrifying. Cortes drags all his viewers into a small box for an hour and a half, a communal claustrophobic confinement test that reveals the depth of human capacity to survive and adapt to inhumane surroundings.

Cortes keeps his cameras busy, with varying light sources and colours enriching the visual experience. Screenwriter Chris Sparling dreams up a regular stream of surprises and unexpected challenges for Conroy to deal with inside his box, some potentially deadly and others, like an ever flickering flash light, plain exasperating. As the rest of his body in tightly confined, Reynolds is forced to act with just his face, most of the time in close-up, and he delivers a commendable performance of a man suffering through horror, anger, fear, determination and frustration.

If Buried is meant as a metaphor, it's easy to uncover: the United States boxed in by an ill-advised military adventure, suffering and desperate to find a way out but not getting any help from neither locals nor outsiders. It may not be sophisticated, but few metaphors dare be this literal.

An independent art film, a populist anti-war message, and a journey into the horror of extreme incarceration. Buried confines itself to a plain box, but demonstrates soaring ambition.

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