Sundance Review: BURIED – We Are Movie Geeks

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Sundance Review: BURIED

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How do you make it interesting watching a man trapped in a box for 90 minutes?  Evidently, it’s pretty easy.  You just have Chris Sparling handle the screenwriting duties, put Rodrigo Cortes at the helm, and have that man trapped in the coffin be Ryan Reynolds.  That’s not only an equation resulting in cinematic gold, it results in BURIED, one of the most suspenseful and powerful movie experiences you are likely to have in quite a while.

Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a contracted truck driver in Iraq whose convoy is attacked.  Paul is knocked unconscious, and, when he awakens, he finds himself in a coffin buried beneath the sand.  His only companions in this coffin are a lighter and a cell phone, and using these, Paul attempts to contact someone, anyone, who can help get him out before his air runs out.

First and foremost, Cortes’ direction on this film is staggering.  Paul might be trapped in the box, but, through the camera work utilized here, we never struggle to catch what is going on inside it.  Cortes pulls the camera back way overhead Paul’s laying body, resulting in a surprising number of long shots.  The lens usage in BURIED is flawless, and it manipulates the audience in all the right ways to make you feel precisely what the director wants you to feel.

Don’t let all of these long shots fool you, either.  This is an extremely claustrophobic film, and anyone who has a fear of being in Paul’s predicament (to judge the reactions of the crowd at my screening would indicate there are several people with just that) might find themselves holding their breath more than a couple of times.  That’s just when Paul is laying there contemplating his situation or banging on the walls around him.  Imagine the sense of dread and suspense that builds when he actually gets on the phone with his captors.

Set with the task of being stuck in the coffin all this time and, essentially, carrying the the entire film, is Ryan Reynolds, who hasn’t had much experience in the dramatic realm.  Reynolds is, in a nutshell, flawless in his performance here, able to engage in whatever emotion the mood of that scene calls for.  He runs the gamut from scared to angry to regretful to even a few lighter moments that help relieve all that tension.  The fact that he had to spend all his time in a 7X3 space with the ceiling a little more than a few inches away from him is one thing, but Reynolds also has to find it within himself to act, to bring this character to life and to make you feel sympathetic and,  occasionally, empathetic with the character at hand.  It is very nearly a flawless effort Reynolds gives here, and the constraints given him as an actor make the performance all the more awe-inspiring.

BURIED is a film that resonates.  Even now, nearly a week after having sat in the theater and experienced it, there are images and full segments of the film that cascade back into memory.  It is a marvelously crafted and astutely pieced together film that is equally as meticulous in the writing involved.  Chris Sparling has come up with a premise built for tension, and he was lucky enough to find a director in Cortes who could not only pull off what Sparling has written, he does so in impeccable fashion.  BURIED is not a horror film, but the sheer terror involved is definite.  Whether the central premise is one that keeps you awake at night at the very thought of what you might do or not, BURIED is a film that will knock such a fear into you.

You will hold your breath.

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars