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  Buried Coffin Fit
Year: 2010
Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, José Luis García Pérez, Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, Ivana Miño, Warner Loughlin, Erik Palladino, Kali Rocha, Chris William Martin, Cade Dundish, Mary Songbird, Anne Lockhart, Robert Clotworthy, Tess Harper
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) awakens to pitch black darkness and begins to wonder where he is. His head is throbbing, he cannot move as well as he'd like to, and he is stiflingly hot - soon he discovers the reason when he finds a lighter and opens it to see he is trapped in a coffin, who knows how many feet underground? No matter how hard he tries to shift it, the lid stays firmly closed, leading him to deduce that there is no way of getting out without help. Then he sees the mobile phone in there with him - a link to the outside world that could be his only hope...

When it comes to the movies based around one set, even most of them have an establishing shot at least, or a hint of the exterior for the ending, but here in Buried not only did it take place on one set, but it was the smallest set imaginable for a single actor to inhabit. Essentially it was a story that played out in the confines of that wooden box, and no hint of reprieve from that dire situation was allowed, ramping up the claustrophobia for the audience, never mind the lead character. It was the first English language feature by Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés, and made quite a splash.

That was mainly down to the audacity of the premise, well delineated by screenwriter Chris Sparling's script - viewers could not believe how far the filmmakers were going with their drive to keep Reynolds imprisoned, as there was not even so much as a flashback to let up the tension. As such, those prone to fears of cramped spaces were the worst affected, and even those who did not think they would be were too, which was of course precisely how Cortés and company wanted them to react. Still, they did not offer an utterly hopeless predicament, as there was that phone to be factored into the plot - there must be someone out there Conroy can contact.

There is, but Sparling and Cortés saw to it that he was thwarted every step of the way, making this incredibly sadistic on their part. The director excused himself by explaining that he saw the whole set-up as something akin to a sick joke, and although there would not be many laughing at each obstacle to Conroy's freedom, you could see where he was coming from with that statement, particularly in light of the punchline at the end. On the subject of light, a coffin is not the most brightly illuminated of settings, but they managed to make it both easy to see what was going on and visually interesting as Conroy uses a collection of objects such as the lighter, the phone, glowstick and more.

Their invention was to be admired, sure, but it was on shakier ground when it attempted a political viewpoint, as Conroy is a contract truckdriver taken hostage in Iraq, and you could approach the film as a commentary on America's involvement there. Try something about being stuck in a situation you can't get out of, that sort of message, but really this operated on a better level if you neglected to concentrate on the themes and took Buried as more of a stylistic exercise. They offer continual frustrations to their hapless lead, as no matter who he calls there is always a complication, even as progress appears to be made, and there was room for an action sequence as Conroy finds an unwelcome visitor in the box with him. Sort of a cross between a thriller and an art installation, or at least a single minded try at doing the most with the least available, this was highly accomplished, although that ending would likely divide opinion drastically. Music by Victor Reyes.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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