When the concept of being buried alive crashes its way into my thoughts like a semi truck, a shiver runs up and back down my spine. It immediately reminds of Jessica Lunsford, the poor nine-year old girl whose abuser handed her her stuffed dolphin, sealed her in multiple plastic bags and buried her alive. It is a horrific way to die. It is a cold, calculating way to kill someone. If there is a worse way to go, I don’t want to know about it or the person who could do such a thing.
Yet, this is precisely where Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself in Buried. After gaining consciousness he finds himself in the worse situation possible — sealed tightly in a coffin under the immense weight of dirt. Why is he there? Who put him there? Is there a way out? There’s something about being solitarily confined — it gives you a lot of time to think of these questions and a whole lot more. Time is of the essence though; whoever put him there left him some tools to get answers — a mobile phone, a lighter, a knife, a pen — but no extra air. Air, I should think, would have been a nice addition.
Ryan Reynolds carries the film. He has to, he is literally the only person in Buried. Shedding his usual smart-ass image, he runs through every emotion possible as believable as can be. Confusion, fear, anguish, desperation — they’re all front and center, conveyed via voice inflection, and facial and body expressions. I wonder how long it took him to get into the moment; actually, I wonder how long it took him to shake it off. It’s these looks that really drive home the nightmare and director Rodrigo Cortes captures every nuance of them quite spectacularly. He employs many differing camera angles to drive home the claustrophobic feeling and uses the dim lighting (a lighter and cell phone screen are pretty much all that there is as a light source) to further engulf us in this hopeless, hellish situation.
Screenwriter Chris Sparling deserves some credit too. He penned a story that, while taking place completely in a coffin, is raw to the bone, chock full of thrills and suspense, and, believe it or not, action. It’s damn close to genius too, to keep Buried a one man show. Had others been introduced in ways other than a distant voice on the other end of a phone receiver, the connection between us and Paul would have suffered incalculably. After all, this film is about ramping up and maintaining our heightened anxiety — hoping the frantic phone calls made to anyone and everyone will lead to Paul being rescued.
How does it end? I’ll just say, it ends exactly as Buried should end. That’s an easy way out, but saying whether Paul enjoys a breath of fresh air or not would simply ruin everything Chris, Rodrigo, Ryan and many others worked so hard to set up. See it — just be warned, it isn’t for the faint hearted.