How do you make a feature-length movie about a man trapped in a box both gripping and inventive? It seems fitting that the last film I reviewed was 127 Hours, as these do follow slightly similar premises. 127 Hours, however, had some form of filler before and after the main vocal point of the film, the being trapped in a canyon. But with Buried, the action never leaves the confounds of the coffin in which its main protagonist is trapped. As high concepts go, it’s a bloody good one. An American contractor wakes up trapped underground in a coffin after being ambushed. The only things he has with him are a lighter and a phone. It’s a race against time as he has to find a way out and act towards the demands of his captors. But it does restrict itself. If you’re going to set your film solely in a coffin, you’ve got to have something up your sleeve. And a confident actor in which to anchor it all. They’ve got one better. They’ve got Ryan Reynolds.

There is a definite Hitchcockian styling to this movie, and it certainly isn’t fair away from the sort of material that the Master of Thrillers would work with back in his hey-day. The inspiration is notable straight from the beginning with one of the best title sequences of recent memory, taking clear stylings from the classic work of Saul Bass. It instantly puts you in the atmosphere and setting of this movie; a twisty, tense thriller, with an excellent pulse pounding orchestral score. Is the movie really like that though. When Reynold’s American contractor wakes up in the said coffin following his convoy being ambushed whilst on a job, there are many questions in place. Why was he ambushed? What did the attackers pick him to be buried? Why is he only equipped with a lighter and mobile phone?

Now, if I’m going to criticise this film in any way, it would have to be with how the story developes. It does very well with developing a strong which is confined to a wooden box, but there seem to be ares which are going to be established but then left hanging; such as Reynold’s Paul possibly being unfaithful to his wife. There is also not that much of a shocking twist or great revelation, it plays out fairly simply. Which is a bit of a shame and does diminish the effect slightly. But it doesn’t top the ending being as tense and as gut-wrenching as it is. And the great variations of shot set ups employed by first English-speaking feature from director Rodrigo Cortes always keeps the proceedings visually engaging and suitably atmospheric.

The strongest point of this movie is how well you engage with the character of Paul as a spectator. This is due to following him so vicariously, but also because of the strength and charisma of Reynolds in the role. If anything, I think it is more worthy of nominations than James Franco’s performance was in 127 Hours. Reynolds has to do so much more, he is literally on his own from start to finish, whereas Franco had fellow performers a the beginning and the end. 127 Hours also relied a lot more on surreal delusions to push the visual boundaries of the restricted concept and expand it in any way possible. Buried merely does that with its varied camera positions, surprisingly diverse in a such a restricted setting. Reynolds brings to the role, indeed any role he inhabits, a strong likeability that instantly allows you to connect with his character, even when he plays an asshole in the likes of Adventureland. Buried really does rely entirely on the power of his performance and skill as an actor to carry a film like this on his shoulders. And he relishes the role. It must be a young actors dream to be given the opportunity to be in a film like this, showcasing their talents one-on-one with the camera. The term ‘tour-de-force’ has never been better qualified for a performance then it does here. It really is a great shame that Reynolds hasn’t received more award buzz, perhaps it is because this movie is a bit too experimental and indie for award boards to take it into account. I doubt it’s going to harm Reynolds career too much, even if Green Lantern looks pretty tacky.

This movie highlights how well filmmakers can establish tension and conflict in such a restricted setting, and on a very small budget ($3 million to be exact). It is also an incredibly strong feature from Cortes, who manages to craft tension like a pro. The only problem is with the restricted narrative, it doesn’t have that far to go and it shows. Despite their being no big twist or revelation, you are constantly engaged with the movie, thanks to the amount of talent both in front of the camera (so just Reynolds then) and behind it. I have to say though, if you’re easily claustrophobic, but still really want to watch this, then try to watch it in place where you won’t feel closed. Maybe outside. In a field of some sort.

4/5- The narrative doesn’t hold many surprises, but the atmosphere is expertly crafted, suitably claustrophobic and tense, all anchored by the exceptional, stand-alone  performance of one Ryan Reynolds.

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