Buried is an intense thriller that entirely takes place, first shot to the last, in a wooden coffin buried under the sands of Iraq. Joining the rarefied ranks of movies set in a minimalist locations, Buried brings it to a whole new level. Shot entirely in the tight confines of a wooden box, the movie employs tricky cinematography, extreme closeups and uncomfortable sound effects to take the audience along into the suffocating underground.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a defense contractor who drives trucks for the US Army in Iraq. When his convoy is ambushed and many of his fellow drivers killed, Paul is knocked unconscious and taken hostage. He wakes up to find himself in a coffin underground, with a cell phone, a lighter, a knife and a flashlight. Racing against rapidly depleting oxygen levels and battery power in his phone, Paul has to figure out a way to contact the outside world and save himself. When the phone rings for a impossible ransom call, the only question is whether it is a blessing or a curse.

Paul is the only visual presence in the movie and turns in a gripping performance as a civilian caught in the war. Swinging from a defiant belligerence to medicated sobriety to despondent realism, Paul is realistic and relateable. All other characters in the movies are voices on the phone, and range from the bored 411 operators, the bitchy ex-girlfriend, the inconsolable wife and the matter-of-fact negotiator. All bring in a level of twisted hilarity to the situation that would make one laugh out were it not for its hopelessness.

The movie definitely suffers from its own plot impossibilities - like having a lighter lit for a couple of hours inside a wooden coffin. (High school science tells us it will probably be not more than a few minutes before all the oxygen in the coffin is used up) Or having microwave radiation (cell phone signal) penetrate earth to give you enough bandwidth to upload a video in under 5 seconds. But fortunately, after the first few minutes of disbelief the story quickly takes hold of you. Given that the ending of the movie caused some in the theater to swear loudly was ample evidence that physical improbability was not on the top of anyone's minds.

All in all, it is a brilliant thriller that grabs hold of you from the first scene till the last. Even with its sparse set of elements, the movie is great way to spend a couple of spellbinding hours.

November 01, 2010


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