One of the more claustrophobic films I’ve seen in recent times, Buried (2010, dir. Rodrigo Cortés) will make you feel like you’re trapped in a very small and confined space, not unlike its protagonist. For once, I’m glad that I actually didn’t see something at the cinema, because I expect this would have been sensory slash claustrophobia overload. Its synopsis is as follows:
Waking groggy in pitch darkness, Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American truck driver working in Iraq in 2006, slowly realizes he is trapped inside a wooden coffin, buried alive. With his cigarette lighter, he can see the trap he is in, and he quickly realizes that there’s not enough air for him to live long. He finds within the coffin a working cellphone, which allows him contact with the outside world. But the outside world proves not to be very helpful at finding a man buried in a box in the middle of the Iraqi desert. Paul must rely on his best resource – himself. (source)
This may be the film that has caused me to gain a significant amount of respect for Ryan Reynolds. I had no idea that he was actually a good actor. When playing a man stuck in a coffin underground with death looming closer every minute, and oxygen depleting every second, it would be pretty easy to go overboard on the stressing and freak-outs. But Reynolds plays this role in a realistic manner, with his sense of stress fluctuating over time, alternating between emotions such as sadness, anger and fear. This seems quite an authentic way to play this role; but I don’t know, I’ve never been stuck in a situation like that before. Reynolds’ shining performance is counterbalanced by the script by Chris Sparling, who handles exposition in a very clever manner indeed, through the use of phone calls that increasingly reveal information over time. Further, direction by Rodrigo Cortés both enhances the claustrophobic experience and lifts the viewers away from it, with some implausible shots that serve to explore our protagonist’s mindset rather than the limitations of his present problem.
What I really loved about Buried was its use of immediacy. There’s no overarching plot necessarily, no complex intermingling of characters and problems to be solved. Instead, we’re presented with the immediate and very present problem of one man trying to get out of his confronting situation using the tools he has on hand. We don’t see anything outside of the coffin; we’re stuck just like Reynolds is. It’s a very simple story, and it puts the viewer right in the centre of it – feeling the lack of oxygen, feeling every grain of sand that sneaks through the wooden planks of the coffin. Buried is a sensory experience, a one man show of impressive quality. It’s a film that’s almost physically uncomfortable to sit through if you’re not a fan of feeling trapped in tight spaces, but even then it’s worth the trouble.
Watch the trailer here.