There are many worse things in life than spending 90 minutes trapped in a box with Ryan Reynolds. And that is exactly what occurs in Cortés' mesmerising thriller, Buried. Paul Conroy (Reynolds) wakes up in a coffin with a mobile phone, a cigarette lighter and a pencil. How he got there is only one of many tantalising questions set up in terrific screenplay that pits Conroy against his abductors, his employers and audience expectation.

Elegantly, we learn that Conroy worked as a contractor in Iraq and is being held for ransom. His colleagues were hit by insurgents, he was kidnapped. Ordered to secure $5million (that's where the mobile phone comes in) or face the consequences, he hastily contacts anyone who can help. At least he tries to, voice mail can be savage. What follows is an emotional roller-coaster ride in real-time as the desires of his abductors, and the abilities of those trying to help, converge in the outside world. For the next ninety minutes, we're all trapped in a box.

There are passing similarities to Cell and Phone Booth for the single-set, stage-bound nature of the production, yet this is a cinematic experience through and through. Judicious lighting and one extraordinary performance commands attention as Cortés turns the screws tighter and tighter until you're screaming louder than Conroy to get out. When the coffin begins filling with sand, Buried closes with a sharp slap to sensibility – there's no formula ending to fall back on. The effect is overwhelming and anyone with claustrophobia is advised to take heed.

Drawn with a dark sense of humour and peppered with a political savvy, Buried is a rare breed of film. Not only does Cortés direct in startling ways, frequently plunging the cinema into darkness, with only one terrific actor he achieves an extraordinary emotional response. It is a truly sensational film, and an unmissable one.

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Ryan Reynolds

Rodrigo Cortés

Chris Sparling


M / 95 minutes

October 7, 2010
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moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks