¨I need one million dollars by nine o'clock tonight or I'll be left to die in this coffin! ¨
I can imagine several producers and directors having read Chris Sparling`s suspenseful screenplay and thought to themselves this is a great premise, but it can`t be done in film. Why? Because it takes place entirely inside a coffin. How can you make a film in such a confined space and maintain the viewer interested? It could make for a great novel, but not a film. Making this picture would imply huge risks and Hollywood isn`t really interested in taking these risks at the moment. However a relatively unknown Spanish director, Rodrigo Cortés, who had been heavily influenced and inspired by Alfred Hitchcock`s minimalist films like The Rope and Lifeboat, thought it could be done because the screenplay was inventive and strong enough. He knew that by playing around with the camera angles and lighting he could maintain the viewer`s interest. Of course all that wouldn`t matter if he didn`t get a great actor who would be able to pull it off. The casting of the film would play a huge part in the success of the movie and since the film takes place entirely in a wooden box the production cost wouldn`t be so high so they could hire an A-list Hollywood actor. They found that actor in Ryan Reynolds who gives one of the best performances of his career. Everything was set and the camera began rolling entirely in a studio in Barcelona, far from Hollywood.
The movie begins pitch black while we hear some heavy breathing. Suddenly a Zippo is lit and we see a man bound and gagged inside a wooden coffin. He manages to untie himself and finds a cell phone lying next to him. His first move is to call his wife Linda (voiced by Samantha Mathis), but no one answers so he leaves a message on her recorder. Next he calls 911 and explains the situation to the operator. His name is Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) and he is buried inside a coffin somewhere in the middle of the dessert in Iraq. He doesn`t remember how he ended up in the coffin. He claims to be an American contractor in Iraq working as a truck driver for CRT. All he remembers is that his convoy was attacked by a group of insurgents and the rest of the truck drivers were all shot to death, he later blacked out and woke up in coffin. Why did his captures bury him alive and leave a cell phone with him? The answer comes next when Paul receives a call from a terrorist named Jabir (voiced by Jose Luis García Perez). He demands 5 million dollars by 9 PM or else they will let him die inside the coffin. Paul then has to contact the FBI in order to find help and see if they can trace the call. They transfer him to one of their hostage negotiators in Iraq, Dan Brenner (voiced by Robert Patterson), who begins to work on his case and race against time in order to save his life. They know they don`t have a lot of time because the oxygen in the coffin is scarce so they have to move quickly. The entire story takes place inside the coffin so we have to begin to piece together what is going on as he makes the different calls.
I am glad this movie takes place entirely inside the coffin and that Rodrigo Cortés had no need to rely on flashbacks to tell the story. He could have easily shown us flashbacks of what happened with Paul when he was attacked, but shooting the movie inside a wooden box gives this movie a more claustrophobic and suspenseful feeling to it. Watching Ryan Reynolds perform inside such a close space makes me think how much luckier James Franco was in 127 Hours. Franco had more space to move and besides that movie doesn’t take place entirely inside the cave and has several flashbacks. I`m not saying Buried is a better movie, it just makes it completely different from the ones we are used to seeing. It’s a minimalist film at its purest form reminiscing some of Hitchcock`s greatest films (which Cortés actually intended). Reynolds is great in this movie and deserved a lot more recognition than he received, although Franco probably made his performance forgettable in Award Season with 127 Hours. The screenplay should have also received a lot more love for its originality and being able to maintain the suspense and thrills inside a small wooden box. Buried does begin a bit slow since it has to repeat itself over and over again when Paul has to explain what has happened to him first to the 911 operator, then to the FBI agents, and then to his negotiator, but the suspense slowly began to build maintaining my interest up to the very end which ends in a high climactic note. The film is definitely worth checking out although I wouldn`t sit through it for a second time.