Starring: Ryan Reynolds, (voices of) Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky
Director: Rodrigo Cortes
Writer(s): Chris Sparling
Cinematography: Eduard Grau
Original Score: Victor Reyes
Running Time: 95 Mins.
Many films purport to be set within one confined area, be it a room, a car, a plane etc. however the truth of the matter is they almost always slip from the high concept and to keep momentum running jump away from said location for reasons of pacing if nothing else, this says two things, one that the script is not gripping enough to sustain the single location concept and two, that there is not enough belief that your actor can hold attention solely for a 90 minute running time. So plaudits must go to director Rodrigo Cortes for having the sheer gall the direct a film that see’s a man, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), trapped in a wooden coffin six-feet under, and keeping the camera and action focused on Conroy and his plight at all times with the only other footage being a very brief and punchy mobile phone video.
So, do Cortes plaudits go beyond the concept he chooses to address, and can he sustain the interest, and more importantly the thrill for the full 95 minutes? The answer to these questions is a yes quite surprisingly, you would expect even the most skilled director to struggle to keep up the tension on display here for its total running time, even more of a shock given that bar one experience with a snake he never resorts to cheap tricks or shock tactics, Paul’s plight alone is enough to keep us gripped. Opening with heavy breathing and next to no information we are as blind to the situation as Paul would appear to be, why is he there? Who put him there? WHere exactly is he? You could go on…
Whilst the story unfurls via phone calls we learn more about the man, who it may seem is not quite the innocent party he at first appears to be, going through all the emotions you would expect, anger, angst, nervousness, anxiety, despair, and not necessarily in that order it is a true emotional rollercoaster that almost reaches the heights of the nail-biting The Hurt Locker provoked. Like that film a lot of the atmosphere rests on the lead man’s shoulders, and in casting Reynolds, Cortes has his trump card. Ever cast as the funny-man or at least the action man with quips, he fills Conroy’s shoes perfectly to the point where you couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role, playing each emotion to perfection you will want to weep when he does, and explode at frustration at the pure imbelcilic nature of one or two of the beaurocrat’s supposedly trying to help him but may well have other agendas in mind.
So the tension is retained and you will likely be gripped throughout which calls to question what stops this achieving full-blown cult status? The simple answer is watchability, and Buried falls into that small category of good film’s that far from demand a second watch as it will do little to reward the viewer, not necessarily a bad thing for entertainment value but it certainly makes longevity null and void demonstrating that beneath a great (immediate) performance it is a one-trick pony, especially given the rather glib ending, though on that note it could well have gone all OTT and pulled the rug from under us, something which in truth would have undermined the film, and its intimate nature, as a whole.
Buried is an excellent effort at suspense and tension that will undoubtedly grip on first viewing, whether it stands up to repeat scrutiny remains to be seen, however I would wager that beneath a committed performance from Reynolds and a novelty concept there is little to be found.