QUENTIN BEROUD finds that thinking inside the box can make for tense, exhilarating thrillers.

box buried buried alive cortes Film quentin beroud ryan reynolds thriller


Directed by Rodrigo Cortés

A man in a box for 90 minutes. Sounds dull, but that would be an accurate synopsis for Buried, which is only the second feature length film from Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés. However, what this pithy plot-summary does not convey is how gripping a 90 minutes they are.

The fact that the man, Paul Conroy, is played by Ryan Reynolds, and that the box is of the fairly average square wooden variety won’t do much to raise the anticipation levels of most people.  But, perhaps the low expectations make the brilliance of the film stand out even more. And it is brilliant.

Paul wakes up in a coffin with very little memory of how he got there, and levels of tension reach almost unbearable levels as Paul uses a phone, given to him by his unnamed captors, to find out where he is and how to get out. The versatility of the Blackberry is on full display, using call and video to put Paul – and the audience – through increasingly barbaric psychological torture. Sounds fun, right?

Also highlighted is the (unsuspected) talent of Ryan Reynolds. Only an outstanding performance could have held such a potentially flimsy concept together, and, given literally no room for error, that guy from Van Wilder is superb. All the stages of hope, despair, and frustration are played with a terrifyingly real intensity. Even turning around becomes an exhausting task as the audience become the fourth wall of a box from which, we can’t help but feel, there is no escape.

Chris Sparling’s script is taut, which is impressive considering that half of it consists of guttural grunts of various kinds (again skilfully negotiated by Reynolds) and Paul’s conversations with captors, family, and potential saviours are never allowed to become sentimental or clichéd. Indeed, some of the most enjoyable elements of the film lie in its macabre humour, particularly when showing the feeling of futile anger at being put on hold by some faceless corporation.

It is true that some of the thrills, whilst effective at the time, feel slightly cheap once the lights have come back on, but this is only to be expected from a concept with which there is very little opportunity for development.

Particularly recommended for masochistic claustrophobics, Buried could be the most intense thriller of the year, worth watching if only for the sigh of shell-shocked relief when the end credits start rolling. Turns out that thinking inside the box makes for great cinema.