Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool)
José Luis García Pérez (La verdad)
Robert Paterson (Faust)
Stephen Tobolowsky (Groundhog Day)
Samantha Mathis (American Psycho)
Kali Rocha (Buffy)
Chris Willaim Martin (The Vampire Diaries)
Anne Lockhart (Tangled)
For several seconds after the opening credits of Buried have ended, the screen is dark, the soundtrack silent. Director Rodrigo Cortés holds that empty screen for as long as he can, and then he keeps holding it; we lean forward, peering into the darkness, straining our ears for any sound that will punctuate the stillness. (It’s a brilliant, if risky, tool for focusing an audience.) Finally, thankfully, there is a quiet cough, then breathing, breathing which becomes more panicked in the darkness. As Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) wakes from a blackout, bound and gagged, he lights his Zippo and realizes what has happened. He’s been buried alive.
Conroy is a contractor in Iraq, a truck driver for a company that (he stresses at one point) is not Blackwater. His convoy was ambushed by a band of insurgents; many of his co-workers were killed. He has been placed in a rickety old wood coffin and buried somewhere in Iraq, who knows where; he’s got his Zippo and his flask, and his abductors have left a Blackberry, which they use to inform him that he is being held for ransom. They don’t seem concerned that he can also call for help, because no one can help him.
Cortés tells Paul’s story in (basically) real time, the 90 minutes or so he’s got until his phone battery, Zippo, and air all run out. So it is the tale of a man trapped, in a seemingly impossible situation, who must keep his wits about him and focus on his own possible survival, slim though his odds may be. The challenge that Cortés places on himself (and on screenwriter Chris Sparling) is borderline masochistic: he stays inside that 2’x7′ box with Conroy for the entirety of the picture. No prologues, no flashbacks, no cutaways, nothing but what is happening right there in that moment, pushed in, pressed up, squished like a vice.
Sparling’s clever screenplay seems to think through every possible action and reaction, and then push two steps ahead; he’s playing three-dimensional chess, and if there are holes in the logic or progression of events, I didn’t see them. Reynolds, the only face on screen for the entire 90+ minutes, gives an unassuming, matter-of-fact, and ultimately effective performance.