We all know the frustration of having no reception on our phones, or worse still, losing reception whilst on a call. Now imagine you are buried alive and that call could be your only chance of survival; that is Paul Conroy’s situation in Chris Sparling’s and Roderigo Cortes’ hopelessly claustrophobic film, Buried (2010). After his convoy is attacked by Iraqi insurgents, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up in blackness and only by the light of a flickering flame does he realise he has awoken in a wooden coffin, with nothing else but a pencil and Blackberry.
Cortes places extreme restrictions on himself with the entirety of the film focused on Ryan Reynolds’ character alone and never leaving the confines of the coffin, but still goes beyond the obvious expectations of such limits, creating a truly enthralling and gripping film. Sparling and Cortes keep the film from lagging with multiple twists and horrors that await Conroy, drawing the audience back into the film’s futility.
The artistry of the lighting in Buried demands respect. The setting does not allow for any light, but yet, Buried offers several light sources that each respond to the situation in different aspects: The ordinary glow of a mobile phone lighting just enough of Conroy’s face in moment’s of calm; the flickering spark of a lighter creating fear and suspense, reminding us of the wooden environment around him; and the fading green glow-sticks and temperamental torch that parallel Conroy’s fruitless endeavours.
Much like James Franco’s performance in 127 Hours, Ryan Reynolds offers a strong performance that adds an emotional depth and a driving force to the suspense. The audience have no option but to be captivated by Reynolds and come to empathise with Conroy’s position as his life hurtles towards its harrowing end. Reynolds effectively displays all the stages of panic, fear and anger; love, determination, and loss. The interactions with his family, especially the touching attempt to connect with his mother, just to hear that at his end he is still loved, and his final will and testament to his son in which Conroy reveals the disappointment of having no legacy to leave your child, offer such emotional blows to the audience that we can only hope that he is finally found.
The cold reality comes in the final fifteen minutes, as Conroy, now fired from his position with his contracting company, with sand flowing into his coffin, resigns to his fate, placing the knife that took his finger against his throat. The lighter’s flame flickers and dies… The Blackberry hums to life – One last hope for survival?
Buried will make your heartbeat race and your eyes well up; it will make you gasp and sigh; its fear and frustration will stay with you, leaving you lost, just for a moment; and it will make you question “Why?”. It is a film that is artistically presented within its restrictive setting, and Reynolds’ holds the screen well whilst luring the audience in to be buried within his performance.