Disclaimer: I try and make all my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, and while this one contains no specific plot details, it may be argued that a film like Buried is best enjoyed if you know as little as possible going in.
Buried is a deceptively simple concept: Ryan Reynolds has been buried alive in a coffin and we spend the entire movie with him in the box as he does his best to try and get out.
To be clear: there’s no flashbacks (cf. Phonebooth), no cuts to the people he’s talking on his mobile, and no dream sequences: just one man in a box.
I must admit, I was expecting something a little different in terms of narrative than what Buried delivered. A film like The Disappearance of Alice Creed uses a similarly contained setting and gets around it by delivering plenty of plot/character twists along the way.
Buried has some of these, but they’re not what really drives the story, or what the film is that interested in.
Instead, the question it seems to ask is who should we turn to for help when we most need it? Our employers? The state? Our enemies? Our family/friends? Who has the responsibility to help us when we most need it? Who’s really looking out of us?
As Paul Conroy seeks help from any source he can think of, we see his emotional turmoil as doors open and close for him, all the while he’s pretty much powerless to do anything about it, or to know what’s really going on.
Finally, the sense of claustrophobia one gets throughout the movie is brilliantly realised. The amount of effort required by Conroy to merely get his phone in his hand and dial a number, or his powerlessness as grains of sand begin to gently seep into his tiny prison give everything a unique sense of contained helplessness.
Ryan Reynolds deserves a great deal of credit, not only for his performance, but also in merely taking a role than cannot have been at all comfortable to shoot. The film entirely relies on his ability to go though all the emotions of anger, despair and acceptance of a man coming to terms with his own mortality.
Buried is a film which is incredibly brave and uncompromising: not only in its contained setting, but also in its contained narrative: which chooses to forgo the types of plot twists one might expect in favour of actually trying to say something. It is largely a success in doing so, and given the number of films that seem to believe ‘Bigger is Better’, Buried is a compelling argument that the exact opposite is so often the case.