2010 saw the release of two cinematic interpretations of claustrophobia: “127 Hours” and “Buried.” However, the trapped protagonist marks the films’ diverging point. While Danny Boyle’s film is a buoyant celebration of life and the triumph of man’s will over the harsh conditions of nature, Rodrigo Cortés’ film takes place in a coffin underground, a setting which sets the bleak tone for the thriller that so badly begs to be seen as Hitchockian.
Equipped with nothing more than a Zippo lighter and a cellphone that somehow manages to get service underground in Iraq (he must not have AT&T, which can’t get me reception in my own house), American truck driver Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) must find a way to get himself saved. He only has a finite amount of time to do this, or the oxygen will run out – and he will die. Paul has no recollection of how he managed to get himself in this position, but he must be smart and look forward to get himself out of the position.
There are no cinematic tricks hiding in the sleeves of “Buried;” it’s just straight up 90 minutes of Ryan Reynolds stuck in a box acting the hell out of his character. Fearful, confused, alone, worried, woebegone – he runs the whole gamut of emotions in a small space and in very little time. It’s an impressive performance that adds a humanity to the movie that feels as palpable as the sweat dripping down his forehead.
Cortés does a great job of complementing Reynolds’ intensity by craftily manipulating the tools he has. The movie’s cinematography, editing, and score are all impeccable and keep the suspense taut. I had my doubts that anyone could make a movie like “Buried,”truly just as straightforward as a man in a coffin, even work, but Cortés executes and makes it a great thriller. While I’d choose to be trapped with “127 Hours” over this in a heartbeat, I definitely can’t diminish the efficacy of this equally improbable success. B+ /