Buried is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Buried (2010) – Rated R

“While on a job in Iraq, civilian contractor Paul Conroy is attacked and kidnapped, then awakens to find himself buried alive in the middle of the desert with nothing but a lighter, a candle, a cell phone and a knife.”

“Nobody’s gonna pay $5 million dollars for me.” – “We take less. $1 million money. “

There are plenty of high concept films in Hollywood. Most end up failing by being ludicrous and/or boring. For every Phone Booth, there are a dozen ATMs and Man on a Ledges. As you might guess, Buried works quite well, actually exceptionally well. There are three reasons for this.

First, writer Chris Sparling creates a wonderfully plausible scenario, ripped from today’s headlines. The twists are well-chosen and, apart from some ill-advised nonsense with a snake, do not strain credulity, at least not to the breaking point. Honestly I can only think the snake was added to stretch running time a bit. Yes, I could sit here and pick apart the entire film – especially the whys – but I never once felt that way while watching it.

The riveting nature of the film must be credited to factor number two, the director Rodrigo Cortes. Cortes wisely avoids making this a roomy coffin and every shot of the film feels claustrophobic yet different. It is clear that Cortes is heavily influenced by Hitchcock. That Cortes can make a feature film about the interior of a coffin compelling is a real testament to his direction.

Of course the final ingredient is Ryan Reynolds. If you hang an entire movie on a single actor, that actor had better be up to the challenge. Prior to Buried, I had found Ryan Reynolds to be amusing but had not thought much of him beyond that. His performance in Buried is outstanding. He completely sells a desperate man running out of time.

The film opens in complete darkness as we hear Paul Conroy breathing. We discover Paul’s predicament just as he does. Wisely there is no pre-situation set-up. We do not see how he got there and that is something Paul himself must figure out. Sparling’s creation of the company CRT seems very realistic and the ending (no spoilers) was, in my opinion, wonderful.

People Watch: Samantha Mathis plays the voice of Paul Conroy’s wife, Linda. Back in 1990, she played a kidnapped girl who was buried alive in 83 Hours ‘Til Dawn.