Of all the movies I've seen so far in 2010 (and there have been a lot of them -- 96, to be exact, and it isn't even October yet), none have brought me to the edge of my seat more than BURIED, an incredible film by little-known Spanish director Rodrigo Cortes, starring a man who was previously best known for having killer abs and being Mr. Scarlett Johansson: Ryan Reynolds.
Now, I have to admit, when I first heard of this film, I was skeptical. How much could they really do with Ryan Reynolds trapped in a box for 90 minutes? The answer is... well, quite a lot. The most amazing thing about this movie is that it never cheats. It advertises Ryan Reynolds trapped in a box, and that is exactly what it gives us. No cutaways to government agents trying to track him down, or flashbacks to happy times with his happy. We are trapped in that goddamn box for the duration, and the result is quite possibly the most claustrophobic movie ever made, featuring some of the most creative and intricate camerawork I have ever seen.
Reynolds, whose acting chops had never really been tested until now, plays Paul Conroy, an American contractor working in Iraq, who wakes up trapped in what appears to be a simple wooden coffin buried somewhere under the desert. After an initial freakout, he surveys the situation and finds that he has been left with a working cell phone, a lighter, a pen, and several other trinkets. He tries desperately to contact both his wife and U.S. authorities but is given the runaround as if he was trying to switch from Time Warner to FIOS. He hears from his captor, who demands an insane $5 million ransom. Other twists and turns abound -- some crazy, some infuriating, some hopeful, all of which add to the ever-building tension. And it all occurs in this tiny confined area, with extreme close-ups of Conroy's blood, sweat and dirt-stained face, using amazing macro photography on the tiniest details. As his race against time continues, the tension mounts... and as Conroy struggles to breathe, so do we.
Simply put, this is the performance of Ryan Reynolds' career. I've always liked the guy in such films as VAN WILDER, WAITING..., and ADVENTURELAND, but this is the first truly meaty role of his career. I mean, aside from some voices on the other end of the cell phone, this is basically a one-man show and he knocks it out of the park. Absolutely riveting stuff. His only real co-star is the camera itself. What Rodrigo Cortes has done here is truly remarkable. The camera moves in ways I never would have imagined, using bizarre angles and perspectives to make the most of every precious inch of that coffin. Yet at the same time, it never feels like more than it is: It's a fucking coffin. It's tiny, Reynolds is trapped and cramped and suffocating, with sand seeping through the cracks like some kind horrific hourglass -- which, in a way, is exactly what it is.
Obviously the movie is loaded with all sorts of socio-political commentary, but really it's about one thing: One man's desperate attempt to survive a seemingly impossible situation. It's a fascinating film -- one that will, if you're like me, leave you on the edge of your seat and on the verge of a goddamn panic attack by the time things come to a jaw-dropping conclusion. We are in the midst of an unprecedented month of September, loaded with tremendous films of all kinds... and BURIED is among the very best and a must-see on the big screen.