Buried ticks all the boxes for a cult classic. It’s got a bankable star in Ryan Reynolds, a genuinely horrifying psychological premise, and an utterly unique gimmick.
As the name implies, Buried tells the story of Paul Conroy (Reynolds), an American civilian truck driver in Iraq who is captured by terrorists and buried alive.
The film starts with Paul waking in a coffin, in the dark, with nothing but the contents of his pocket and a phone left for him by his captors (helpfully set to Arabic). What follows is Paul’s real-time attempts to negotiate his way out of the coffin by following the orders of his captor and receiving advice from the Hostage Working Group.
Buried is a film quite unlike your traditional thriller, for a number of reasons; first, the innately claustrophobic premise gives the film a consistent horror vibe. Second, we literally only see one actor, with Reynolds carrying the entire film on the strength of his performance. It also makes creative use of linear storytelling, as opposed to using flashbacks and cutaways to show what’s going on elsewhere. Put simply, Buried is dark, both literally and tonally, and what makes it all so much more disturbing is just how plausible it really is.
I enjoyed the gimmick of the entire film taking place in the coffin, and couldn’t help but marvel at Reynolds’ willingness to suffer for his craft. He delivers a performance far beyond his usual offerings, showcasing the genuine depth of his talent, and without that performance, the whole film would simply have fallen apart.
What’s more, critics actually liked it. Buried has an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Roger Ebert giving it 3.5/4 and IGN giving it a perfect 10/10.
Even with all of this going for it, Buried quickly passed into obscurity. The exact reasons why aren’t entirely clear, although it was originally given a limited release, which may have contributed to its lack of lasting popularity.
Buried is a film that’s a genuine must-watch for anyone interested in innovative filmmaking or just fans of general horror. Its a simple tale of survival, but conceived and made with such confidence that the end result is a genuinely enthralling piece of film.
Summary: Came for the interesting premise, stayed because Ryan Reynolds made me care. Whether you came to be unsettled by the prolonged time in an enclosed space or simply to see if it’s all achieved realistically, you won’t be disappointed.
Highlight: There’s a surprise appearance by an animal that somehow made Buried even more uncomfortably tense, but it’s a toss-up between that and Reynold’s emotional, panicked performance.