The next time your filmmaker buddy complains to you that he doesn’t have enough money to finish his project, I suggest you refer him to Buried. Turns out, all you need is a box, Ryan Reynolds, and a cell phone to make a pretty darn compelling movie.
Yup, all of Buried takes place in a grave, where trucker Paul Conroy has been buried alive. The film starts in pitch black silence (no need to wave at the projectionist, it’s on purpose), then watches as Paul wakes up, panics, writhes around in agony, and tries (in vain) to break out.
He has a lighter and a cell phone, and that’s pretty much it.
We find out that he was doing a contract job in Iraq and the convoy he was driving in got ambushed by insurgents. Most of his fellow truckers are believed to be dead. The cell phone is there so the kidnappers can talk to him and demand ransom. (It starts at $5 million). It’s also his only link to the outside world.
“You can’t be buried too far underground if you’re still getting cell service,” the guy at the State Department tells Paul, explaining off one of the film’s many improbabilities. (It’s hard to quibble over minor plot holes when they’ve pulled off an entire movie in a casket!)
Paul has limited air and limited cell phone battery. He also can barely move, which makes trying to maneuver around the box pretty difficult, especially when the kidnapper demands that he make a video to be played on Al Jazeera (and You Tube, of course).
It also makes acting quite difficult, but Reynolds manages it nicely. The film must’ve been an ordeal to make and Reynolds allows us to feel Paul’s desperation, panic, and claustrophobia, while remaining wholly likeable. (I’ve always found Reynolds a bit too smirky for my taste, but there’s no smirking here. Ironically, he does the best work of his career from the confines of this box.)
Of course, the film is tense and suspenseful, but director Rodrigo Cortes actually manages to tease some humor from Paul’s dire predicament. Paul calls 911, who explain that they can’t help him, because he’s, well, in Iraq. He gets put on hold and has to endure Musak. He gets into a fight with a friend of his wife’s (his wife isn’t picking up her cell), who doesn’t seem to grasp that his situation is actually more important than her dry cleaning.
There’s also a sense of outrage: Paul’s trucking company is already scrambling to save themselves from law suits in the likelihood of his demise. The FBI and State Department seem more concerned with avoiding an international incident than helping him.
He does have one seeming ally, a hostage liaison at the State Department (Robert Paterson), who is one of the few understanding voices.
But does Paul have even a remote chance of getting out his living hell? You’ll have to watch the film to find out. It takes you on a rollercoaster ride, albeit a 7-X-3-foot rollercoaster ride that’s stuck underground and doesn’t budge an inch.