★★★ / ★★★★
Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), a truck driver, woke up in a wooden coffin underground. All he could remember was the fact that he and his fellow U.S. contractors were ambushed by a group of Iraqis. Believing that he was a soldier, Paul was contacted via a cell phone by one of the kidnappers named Jabir (voiced by José Luis García Pérez) who wanted five million dollars in exchange for Paul’s freedom. Written by Chris Sparling and directed by Rodrigo Cortés, “Buried” is one of the more effective films about a character being stuck in one place and facing a battle against time. In this instance, with each passing second, Paul’s source of oxygen was steadily being depleted. The picture’s main challenge was to keep its audiences engaged for the entire running time. I thought it didn’t have a problem with keeping us at the edge of our seats. After Paul learned about his situation, he responded like a normal person: fear, anger, and confusion appeared all at once. We were left in absolute horror and wondered how he could possibly get out of the coffin with only a lighter, a small knife, a candle, a flashlight, and a cell phone. I didn’t always agree with Paul’s decisions but there was no doubt that I wanted him to get out of there. For example, he called people who didn’t have the power or authority to do anything about his increasingly desperate situation. Then he would yell or scream at them if they couldn’t do anything to help. Perhaps he knew that. But he called anyway because he needed someone to talk to since his family in the United States wouldn’t answer his calls. Being in a state of terror can lead us to do things that don’t make much sense. Or perhaps it was out of convenience because the writer wanted to poke fun of the ridiculous bureaucracies that are supposedly aimed to protect its people. But what completely failed to work for me were the crane shots of Paul lying in a coffin. It happened more than once and I was taken out of the moment each time. For the majority of the time, there was wood a few inches from Paul’s face and it was weird to see it suddenly disappear when such a shot was taken. Some level of tension was lost. There were other inconsistencies such as the main character knowing that the burning of a candle required oxygen (he must have paid attention in Chemistry), yet he kept screaming to the top of his lungs from frustration. Nevertheless, the highly effective thrills made up for the film’s missteps. It may not look like much but I thought it was ambitious because we spent the entire time in the coffin yet we were consistently entertained. Most mainstream projects have proven that minimalism is difficult to pull off. But when it’s done right, as “Buried” has shown, it can do wonders.