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5 reviews, 10 user ratings

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by Mel Valentin

"Redefines the "man-in-a-coffin" sub-genre (and then some)."
4 stars

Ryan Reynolds’ career trajectory has taken him from light comic roles on television and on film (e.g., "Two Guys, A Pizza Place, and a Girl," "Van Wilder") to romantic comedy lead ("The Proposal") to more challenging, if underseen dramas ("Chaos Theory," "The Nines") and, next summer, headlining a big-budget comic-book adaptation, "Green Lantern." Before Reynolds signed on to "Green Lantern,"a role likely to catapult him to the A-list, Reynolds took the lead in "Buried," a one-character, indie-financed suspense-thriller written by Chris Sparling (the upcoming "ATM" and "Reincarnate" for M. Night Shyamalan) and directed by Rodrigo Cortés ("Dirt Devil," "The Contestant," "Dentro").

Buried opens in complete darkness. A minute or two passes before we hear breathing and another before Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American contractor working in Iraq as a truck driver in 2006 (during one of the worst periods of the U.S.-led occupation), realizes he’s awakened in a small, confined space and even longer to realize he’s been kidnapped and buried in a coffin. His kidnappers, presumably Iraqis, have left him with a lighter, a cell phone, several glow sticks, a knife, an alcohol-filled flask, and 90 minutes of air (the not-coincidental running time for Buried) their intentions unknown.

Cell phone in hand, Paul attempts to contact someone, anyone who can help, calling 911, 411, his wife, Linda (voiced by Samantha Mathis) back in the states (he gets her voicemail), an employer representative, Alan Davenport (Stephen Tobolowsky), a U.S. State Department rep (Chris William Martin)., and finally, a British officer in charge of search-and-rescue in Iraq, Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson). Finding Conroy’s location proves to be more difficult than expected. A call to Conroy’s cell phone finally reveals why he was kidnapped: he’s being held for ransom. A man identifying himself as Jabir (José Luis García Pérez) asks for five million dollars in exchange for Conroy’s freedom. Dwindling air supply and a dying cell phone battery naturally lead to an increasing sense of desperation and hopelessness for Conroy and his seemingly inescapable predicament.

Always persuasive, always convincing, always compelling, Reynolds gives the kind of bravura performance that, under different circumstances (i.e., a non-genre film), would easily nab him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor next spring. Sparling’s repeatedly script calls on Reynolds to show off his dramatic range, from befuddlement to fear, to anguish and despair (and maybe even hope), all while Cortés’ camera mercilessly hovers inches away from Reynolds’ face. Superficially, the tight close-ups might seem non- or un-cinematic, but they’re not. The larger the close-up, the longer it’s sustained, the stronger the audience identification with the character, an identification that would be vastly diminished if experienced non-theatrically.

Cortés shot Buried in only 17 days in Spain, limiting himself to tight close-ups and medium shots and only a handful of angles. Cortés doesn’t break away for exterior shots, flashbacks, or character reactions. We’re in the coffin with Conroy from the beginning of the film all the way through the end and his (potential) rescue. And while he could have shown Conroy pre-attack and show the attack itself at the beginning of the film, he doesn’t, a smart move, smarter because he was following Sparling’s screenplay and not the producers’ wishes who indeed wanted Cortés and Sparling to “open up” Buried with exterior shots, flashbacks, and additional characters.

There’s political context and subtext too. Sparling wanted to combine a single-setting premise, perfect for a low-budget indie film, with contemporary politics. He found his story when he came across reports of U.S. non-mercenary contractors being kidnapped by Iraqi militants and held for ransom. Sparling’s sympathies are undoubtedly with contractors who’ve risked life and limb for economic (non-political) reasons, but he also includes pointed criticisms of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq (i.e., hubristic neglect of Iraqi suffering) as context for the kidnappers’ actions. Whether you agree or not with that criticism, Sparling and Cortés never let it politics get in the way of telling an effective, efficient suspense-thriller, one you shouldn’t miss theatrically.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20132&reviewer=402
originally posted: 09/24/10 03:11:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2010 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Fantastic Fest 2010 For more in the Fantastic Fest 2010 series, click here.

User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell tense & claustrophobic 4 stars
3/02/16 Charles Tatum Reynolds is excellent, and yes, this will make you claustrophobic 5 stars
3/11/12 John Wilson This was one of the best thrillers I've ever seen. 5 stars
1/22/11 Beverley M Sporck Interesting, different, good acting, and all I could think of is the creativity to make a f 5 stars
1/20/11 actiobn movie fan was everything 127 hours wasn,t =gripping captivating-frozen and open water in a coffin 5 stars
10/30/10 M.J. This movie was very interesting. I did think he'll be in the casket the whole time. 4 stars
10/28/10 Kim Kelly Even if I wasn't claustrophobic, Id be unnerved by Reynold's frightened performance. 4 stars
10/24/10 Ming It makes me sick watching this.... 2 stars
10/11/10 Ronald Holst I calustrphobic wathing this 4 stars
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  24-Sep-2010 (R)
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