Paul Conroy is not ready to die. But when he wakes up 6 feet underground with no idea of who put him there or why, life for the truck driver and family man instantly becomes a hellish struggle for survival. Buried with only a cell phone and a lighter, his contact with the outside world and ability to piece together clues that could help him discover his location are maddeningly limited. Poor reception, a rapidly draining battery, and a dwindling oxygen supply become his worst enemies in a tightly confined race against time— fighting panic, despair and delirium, Paul has only 90 minutes to be rescued before his worst nightmare comes true.
For me, there’s no greater anxiety that being trapped in a crawl space. As a child I had the recurring dream of going after a ball that rolled there and once inside, could not get back out. Of course, as is the stuff of nightmares, my hands were at my sides and I could not bring them over my head for leverage. And, I could not get enough traction with my feet to edge myself back out. I get the creepers just thinking about it (!).
For many, there’s nothing more terrifying than the feeling of being trapped in a confined space – claustrophobia. In his new film, BURIED, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés feeds on that very fear and takes it up a few notches by combining it with the fear of being buried alive – taphophobia.
BURIED shot out the gate at Sundance in January, where it premiered and set off a bidding war, with an ample amount of positive buzz and early raves from both festival attendees and critiques alike. But I am always weary of films garnering ‘darling’ status without earning the mantle, especially at festivals that incubate an indie arts aura. My skepticism point state ain one direction: How could a film with only one actor in the cast (I still can’t help but smile when I only see a single credit in the production notes) keep a discriminating horror sect captivated for 94-minutes? Well, as it turns out Buried is not your typical horror film. For one, aside from the lead character, Paul Conroy, an Iraq contractor we learn, who’s played to great effect by Ryan Reynolds, there are no other actors onscreen. None. Save for the performers who provide their voices and talents for the calls Paul makes and receives (that includes that of Judy Reyesas a 411 operator).
There is no denying that filmmaking is a collaborative medium. But there is something else at work here, something that can only germinate when a true creative exchange occurs. Because this is such an intimate experience for both the filmmaking team and audience — yes, during the press screening I attended the there seemed after a moment where the walls of the small screening room and its inhabitants inhaled and exhaled at assigned rhythm, the tempo and suspense of the film — in actuality the craftiness of Elio’s hands — guiding our collective breaths as one unified but retrained panic attack.
The fact that the production was shot in Elio’s home country of Spain, with a mostly Spanish-speaking crew and production staff, initially started out as a hindrance for Reynolds who spent most of his free time in solitude. He readily admits that very sense of separation and loneliness later proved to be a great asset in the motivation of his character Conroy as the production marched onward.
Here is some early buzz on Buried: