- Gareth Crook
You’ve gotta be careful with films like this, shameless one trick ponies. They are marmite offerings. Some will watch the trailer for this and instantly think, nope. Buried is not that clever. It stars Ryan Reynolds for crying out loud (there will be crying out loud). He’s in a box. Wakes up there, in the dark (there will be a lot of dark). It’s not immediately obvious why, but that’s not the point really. The point is to make the audience uncomfortable. We’re put right in the box with him. Tight cameras, remarkably effective, lit only by Paul’s (Reynolds) zippo lighter, well to start with. Whoever has put Paul in this box has bound his hands, feet and mouth. These are all quickly dispensed with, leaving him to deduce he’s essentially in a cheap wooden coffin. He could be anywhere. Then a phone rings. The phone tells us it’s 6:15pm, he’s got half a battery and lots of messages in Arabic. Searching his pockets he finds his wallet empty, but does find a hip flask, every cloud. Back to the phone though, that’s the lifeline outside the box. An amusing 911 call finds him telling the operator he’s in a coffin, only for them to ask “are you at a funeral home?”. We do find out that Paul is a truck driver, working in Iraq and that he was attacked in a convoy, the other drivers all shot. He calls his wife, tells her where he was attacked, asks for the “National Guard or anyone”. He knows he’s buried, not just nailed in a box. He calls the FBI, via directory enquiries. He gives them the full story, but to say they’re not that helpful is an understatement, damn bureaucracy. There’s a surprising amount of comedy considering he’s stuck in a box. He calls his employer CRT, who put him on hold, play lift music and ask him to leave a message. Each call drip feeds a little more information. One call changes things or at least clarifies them. A number in the call list. It’s the guy who put him in the box, who thought he was a solider, knows he’s American, either way wants $5 million. Paul sinks in desperation, knowing his situation suddenly got much worse. The camera pulling out impossibly to hammer this home as he’s bathed in a blue hopeless light. He continues to search the structure of the box, looking for weaknesses. Turning over and trying push up with his back against the top to crack it. It’s dusty, he’s caked in sweat, it’s ridiculously claustrophobic. Paul is not handling this well, he’s running out of time and patience with the people he’s calling. Understandable, but he’s a bit of an asshole. I guess we all would be. Reynolds is pretty good to be fair, there’s very little to play with, the role needs to be full blown and he delivers well. Paul eventually gets through to Dan Brenner (Robert Patterson), hostage negotiator. He’s British. British voices are calming aren’t they, reassuring. Dan knows his shit, telling Paul about battery conservation on the shit non-smart phone, looking for marking inside the box to place where he might be so they can find and rescue him. We get into a pattern of calls between Paul and Dan, Terrorists and Paul. The ransom comes down to $1 million, but the Americans won’t pay. The hostages want him to make a video and have handily left a few things he’ll need to do so. Including some lights and a script. It’s all at his feet though and he can’t get them without first attempting to turn around. It’s excruciating watching him struggle and in the process he cuts his head... and cracks the box a little, letting a stream of sand slowly drain in. Dan doesn’t want him to make a video, doesn’t want an international incident. He’s keeps Paul calm, keeps us all calm, thank god for Dan. Dan is a rock. Then the terrorists call and Paul plummets. It’s a real rollercoaster of torment. Waiting, hoping, panicking. In such a situation you’d think the tension couldn’t ramp any higher but it does. Pushing Paul not to the edge, but way beyond it, probably never to return. How do you recover from something like this, even if you make it? Then there’s a fucking snake in the box! Some folks like these slippery serpents, Paul does not and I don’t blame him, this one makes freaky noises as it’s spilt tongue teases at his feet. They don’t like fire though do they, so using whatever’s in the hip flask and his zippo, he starts a fire, in the box! I’m not sure if this is all needed, it feels a bit too preposterous. It works through, he survives the snake, it slithers back out the crack it came in. Paul’s now been awake in there for 2 hours and he’s on his last bar of battery life. For all the good the phone potentially does though, it’s just as much part of the torture, a tool with which the terrorists continue to push Paul’s buttons. The same can be said for the pocket knife that’s also been left in the box. He starts to dig at the box, but also contemplates digging at his neck too. Everything’s duplicitous, a glimpse of promise, snatched away. Not least in an infuriating conversation with his boss, which at any time would be heartless, but in his circumstances is fucking unbelievable. I sincerely hope that this is purely for the purpose of winding Paul up and therefore us. That no company or person could ever even contemplate making such a call. Then bang, literally. Bombs are going off above, the box is filling with sand. Paul is resigned. Alone. Buried. It’s all pretty simple, but pretty devastating and it’s stuck with me since I first watched it years ago. It stands up well and if you’re not claustrophobic or even if you are, it’s worth a watch.