Buried taps into one of the few remaining stories of the Iraq war: civilians who are taken hostage. Just what makes this one particularly rich with suspense is that it entirely takes place within the condensed and claustrophobic space of a wooden box buried in the ground. Ryan Reynolds gives his best performance ever as Paul Conroy, a truck driver for a contracting firm whose convoy was attacked and who he is captured and buried alive.
The movie begins with him in the dark, the only light coming from a Zippo he has on hand and later some green glow sticks. He has been given a cell phone and told by his kidnappers that he must negotiate a five million-dollar ransom from the U.S. or else. Low on oxygen, time and cell phone battery Paul begins calling everyone from his wife, a hostage negotiator working with the FBI, the personnel director of his company and his kidnappers, in order to lower his price. “Buried” makes a daring approach by keeping the focus on Paul the entire time and yet it never looks dull.
Chris Sparling’s screenplay may have holes in it (who knew cell reception could be so good six feet under?) but expertly turns this tiny space into an even more terrifying and uninhabitable one, while his nod toward a government’s attempts to cover its own ass ring sadly true. Reynolds is terrific here, a ball of anxiety, frustration, and anger that’s not only gripping but heartbreaking to watch. Director Rodrigo Cortes makes good use of lighting and his camera angles bring even more life to this tight space.
Buried is a suspenseful, well-acted, and devastating thriller that proves that a low budget and condensed spacing are no handicaps. It buries almost every other big-budget thriller this year.