Tapping a similarly bruised vein to Danny Boyle’s recent gripping yet flawed James Franco vehicle 127 Hours, Buried is an unforgiving claustrophobia-fest; an experience that at times feels like an assault and that if thought about too deeply is liable to cause king size panic attacks.
The entire film hangs on the enticing premise of one man buried 6 feet underground with only a lighter and a mobile phone with rapidly diminishing battery life for company. Ryan Reynolds is superb as the American contractor ambushed by suspected insurgents whilst working in Iraq.
In what is essentially a one man show, Reynolds’s performance as Paul Conroy makes the movie. The only interaction he has with the outside world comes via the mobile in calls to and from his captors, US authorities and his family back at home.
The tension is set to eleven from the very start; the Saul Bass style titles bringing to mind the glory days of suspense cinema and providing the right amount of melodrama and expectation for what is to come. Reynolds’s sufferings – grimly extracted from unrelenting close ups of his anguished face – seem all too real. It would be an unfeeling audience indeed that did not feel its heart rate accelerate during the taut 90 minutes of the running time.
Buried successfully conveys that most primeval of human fears – the fear of being buried alive. This is a fear that everybody can relate too – the fact that the film is anchored by a great performance, tight direction (from Spanish director Ricardo Cortes) and a script that keeps you guessing until the very end only strengthens the piece.
A real gem – Buried is a heartening example of an American thriller coming from slightly under the radar to do what old school thrillers used to do – to provoke, entertain and quicken the pulse.
Robert W Monk