Sep 28 2010 Fulham Chronicle
Hollywood hunk Ryan Reynolds is on his own and in a box in stripped-down nail-biter Buried, writes DAMON SMITH
FILM-MAKING is a collaborative process, pooling the creativity and imagination of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of individuals behind and in front of the cameras. Rodrigo Cortes's thriller goes back to basics and daringly asks us to invest all our emotions in just one character - who spends the entire film on screen trapped in a single, cramped location.
Not since Sam Rockwell discovered the terrifying secrets of Moon or Tom Hanks found himself Cast Away with only a volleyball for company, has the entire weight of a film rested on one actor's shoulders.
Hollywood hunk Ryan Reynolds had a glorious 2009, paired with Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy The Proposal.
Now he is very much on his own in Buried, which traps the actor inside a wooden coffin deep underground for 94 nail-biting minutes.
Cortes doesn't allow his camera to escape from the subterranean prison for a single second - no flashbacks, no fleeting glimpses of the sunshine above the tomb.
Instead, the camera cleverly moves around the space over Reynolds's dirty, sweat-drenched body, lit by the flickers of a cigarette lighter or the beam of a torch.
When darkness occasionally prevails, we can still hear his rapid breathing and his clothes catching on splinters of wood.
Viewers who suffer from claustrophobia should look away
Truck driver Paul Conroy (Reynolds) is attacked during a convoy run in Iraq and wakes inside a crudely constructed coffin.
With no obvious way out, Paul discovers a mobile phone with a weak signal and hurriedly calls for help, telling the 911 operator: "I don't know what's going on. I'm buried in a box!"
As anxiety takes hold in the cramped confines of his prison, Paul discovers that terrorists have placed him in the box and want a $5million ransom.
The terrorist leader, Jabir (Jose Luis Garcia-Perez), is adamant - for Paul to see his wife Linda (Samantha Mathis) again, he must pay up.
Dan Brenner (Robert Paterson), an officer who is trained in hostage negotiation, and trucking company rep Alan Davenport (Stephen Tobolowsky) seem powerless to help.
The prospects look bleak.
Buried wrings every last drop of tension from a simple dramatic set-up, making excellent use of the natural lighting to capture Paul's mounting distress.
There are even whispers of a possible Oscar nomination for Reynolds for his overwrought theatrics.
While he certainly holds our attention, the actor doesn't have the emotional range to take us to the edge with his stricken character and he doesn't always earn our sympathy, culminating in a skin-crawling interlude involving an unexpected visitor to the box.
Occasional deviations from logic - the final power bar on Paul's mobile phone lasts much longer than expected - feel like a bit of a cheat.