By: Addison Wylie
Previously in the review for Aaron Green’s Frozen, I wrote about the concept of a bottle film; a film that takes place in one location. After viewing Frozen, I thought I was never going to view something that claustrophobic ever again. How exactly do you top being stuck on a chair lift in mid-rotation with no one around you? Easy. One makes a movie which takes place in a coffin buried underground. The movie will star one main actor who will be in every scene. There will be no scenes prior introducing the character with droning throwaway dialogue explaining his past. Nope. Just stick him, in this case Ryan Reynolds, inside a wooden box and let the film unravel.
Being awoken suddenly and not knowing where you are is a very unsettling feeling. Paul Conroy, played by Reynolds, has found himself in this situation as he wakes up to find himself laying on his back inside a coffin. He screams; no one hears him. He beats repeatedly on the cover. His pounding sounds dense and dirt slowly leaks through the cracks. Paul has been kidnapped and buried alive. Not knowing his whereabouts, Paul searches the environment for items. He instantly finds a cell phone, a Zippo lighter, and a pen. Conroy’s goal is to find out the details behind this felony. Who trapped him? Where is he? Calls from the cell phone will help Paul solve this mystery and provide the audience with more details as to who Paul is. However, with a draining battery, the cell phone has a life expectancy and once that signal dies, Paul is officially alone.
Being that the film takes place in a coffin, this initiates problems regarding the cinematography. However, director Rodrigo Cortes and cinematographer Eduard Grau each have extremely creative minds. They are able to think of a variety of shots and angles and successfully shoot the entire movie from within this small space. Each shot feels different and even more innovative than the last. Lighting is also a problem that rises. How exactly do you properly light the film from within this dingy environment? Cortes is clever in this sense too; using Paul’s lighter to light a large portion of this film. Cortes has supplied Reynolds with directions in regards to where the lighter should be positioned so that large shadows aren’t cast across the actor’s face. Reynolds and Cortes are able to successfully accomplish this task. With that said, while the effect is neat during initial scenes, the lighter wares out its welcome. The lighter keeps wavering and flickering making the lighting tough to view for long periods of time. Cortes, however, is aware of this and introduces glow sticks and the shine from Paul’s cell phone as other ways to light the scenes. I understand Cortes can’t control how the flame staggers but he could’ve introduced the glow sticks earlier. This would make these scenes much more tolerable on the eyes. On another note, Cortes’ film has a wonderfully written script penned by Chris Sparling. Sparling’s script maintains a swift pace throughout and is able to pack in character development through simple phone calls with Paul and various voices from friends, co-workers, and customer service agents. The development never feels like its being beaten over our heads; everything feels very natural. Speaking of not being bashed over the head with the writing, Sparling also includes messages and ideas of how frustrating audible customer service can be. The lines and the deliveries of the actors talking to Paul will drive us up the wall and Conroy’s reactions will ring true with audience members. Although Sparling’s script gets very bleak as the film progresses, the writing never lets up and is able to fulfill reliability throughout.
The question on a lot of minds is whether Ryan Reynolds has the acting chops to carry the film on his shoulders. I am proud to say that he most certainly does. Reynolds shows the audience that he’s not only “the funny guy” but he can also provide dramatic emotions towards a character. When we see Paul talking to support teams, we can sense that pain in his eyes and when something doesn’t work out, our hearts sink when we see tears rolling down his cheek. Even though Paul Conroy is deemed as someone who can’t do a whole lot to help himself given the circumstances, Reynolds is able to mix those said dramatic responses with his already established charisma, thus, rounding out a protagonist an audience can root for. It’s a powerhouse performance that calls for a large amount of sense memory on the actor’s part and Reynolds nails it.
Pros aside, Buried is certainly not for everyone. Viewers who have a claustrophobic history are going to have a tough time enduring the experience. Even for a guy who doesn’t have a fear of being trapped in small spaces, I found my heart pounding harder and harder after the hour checkpoint. However, I hope everyone will have the courage to catch Buried. It’s a film that will constantly have your eyes glued to the screen. Buried has a sensationally melancholy script and an extremely strong lead performance that adds to the film’s impact. If you can muster up the strength, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this strikingly stimulating film.