Fellow claustrophobes, beware! For I have discovered your second biggest fear (after being buried alive, of course): this movie. If you could apply the word “tense” to just one movie this year, I think you would be hard pressed to find one more tense, or more cringe-worthy, than Buried.
Ryan Reynolds stars as Paul Conroy, an American contractor working in Iraq who, after his convoy is attacked, wakes up in a wooden coffin with just a cell phone and a lighter; But surprisingly, these two elements are enough to craft a whole movie around…and a damn good one at that. The film opens with a pitch black screen. For a good 10 seconds you hear no noise at all. At first I thought there was something wrong with the projector.
But then we start to hear breathing, which escalates to a muffled panic, to straight up screaming and thrashing. Brilliantly, we are made to feel exactly how Reynolds feels: If he can’t see, we can’t see. It’s not until he finds the lighter (yes, it’s quite convenient that he has that, but do you want to view a black screen for 90 minutes? Thought not) that we are visually brought into his situation.
Not only are we visually brought into his situation…10 minutes in and I started to literally feel claustrophobic. I found myself stretching my legs on top the seat in front of me, just as a way of reminding myself that I could. My friend turned over to me and said “I feel like I can’t breathe”. Getting jittery yet?
To answer the question I know everyone’s thinking: Yes, the ENTIRE movie takes place in the coffin. No, there are no flashbacks. No, there are no cutaways. If the filmmakers wanted to, they easily could have incorporated that. They could have done it so that when Paul desperately calls someone on his cell phone, that it cuts to the person speaking to him…whether it be his wife, the FBI, or the terrorists that did this to him.
We could have had flashbacks showing us how he ended up in the coffin or why he decided to take the job in Iraq, despite his wife’s protests. But director Rodrigo Cortes and screenwriter Chris Sparling had a film experiment in mind, one that they successfully pulled off against all odds. Cortes takes on the ultimate challenge, beating all the other films that decide to confine themselves to one location (such as Phone Booth and Open Water)…while managing to demonstrate amazing camerawork and incredible, heart-pounding intensity at the same time.
I don’t care if this isn’t the type of movie that the Academy recognizes…Reynolds deserves a Best Actor nomination this year. He manages to carry the entire movie by himself, while never over-acting in a situation where it would have been extremely easy to. This is exactly how I think someone would react if they woke up trapped in a coffin, and I believed every moment of it. Admittedly there were times when the film started to feel repetitive and I got the smallest bit annoyed…but I forgave it this, because, well…who wouldn’t be screaming and banging senselessly against the box if they found themselves buried underground?