In Buried, Ryan Reynolds plays a guy named Paul, entombed alive underground inside a wooden box and trying for 90 minutes to get out. The good news: Paul’s got a usable cell phone (who’s his carrier?!), a lighter, a small flask of water, and a couple of glow sticks. The bad: He’s a contract truck driver working in Iraq, he’s been ambushed and kidnapped, and, well, he’s in a coffin. No one can hear him scream. Besides, screaming uses up oxygen. Are you feeling claustrophobic yet?
Trust me, you will. Rodrigo Cortés, the Spanish filmmaker behind this diabolical, Hitchcock-influenced narrative stunt, makes merry mischief with camera angles and lighting; the viewer feels suffocated along with Reynolds, whose sweat, grime, and stubble, seen in tight close-up, are in dramatic contrast to his gleaming white American-style teeth. Yes, I know, Reynolds is Canadian. But the movie places unsophisticated emphasis on Paul’s symbolic position as an apolitical, wage-earning American pawn of U.S. capitalists profiting from a rotten war. And the political angle is gratuitous, even foolish, and certainly a distraction from the movie’s visual strengths. Also, Paul’s phone skills suck — he’s a yeller. The hollering doesn’t help his predicament, but it does add an annoying aural dimension to the experience of suffocation. B-