Many people have phobias. Some have a fear of heights (Acrophobia), others a fear of crowds (Agoraphobia), and many others a fear of spiders (Arachnophobia). But one of the worse fears a person can have is being buried alive. Taphophobia, its proper name, is the subject of this gripping film byRodrigo Cortés.
The three things that most surprise about this film are first, the superb acting by Ryan Reynolds, a man usually associated with comedic roles, the second is the camera and lighting work by Cortés. How Cortés made us believe that Reynolds was actually buried in a coffin, rather than above ground on a set is something every aspiring director should take notice of. The angles of the shots, all forced to be close-ups and the proper use of light (or the lack of it would be more precise) makes one experience the claustrophobic feelings personally. The film just strikes of authenticity.
But what surprises the most would be the third and most difficult feat to pull off in a film such as this one. With audiences accustomed to suspense thrillers involving multiple roles, intrigue, and action scenes (a car chase or a shoot out perhaps), this film shows just one man buried alive in a cheap wooden box for over 90 minutes. With that as a premise, only a great script and an actor with chops can make make it escape the confines placed on it from the start.
Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a truck driver who accepted a contract to move supplies in Iraq. When his convoy is attacked by insurgents he is knocked out and wakes to find himself buried alive. His only light comes from a Zippo (until later in the film when he uncovers a flashlight and glow-sticks) and his only contact with the outside world is via a cell phone.
As the film progresses we see Paul contact his family, a 911 emergency dispatch center, the FBI, the company he works for, and the State Dept. Paul must rush against time to save himself before the battery to the cell phone runs out as well as the oxygen he is breathing. After much effort, he finally reaches a man who can help him, all the while contending with the demands of the kidnapper who put him in the box with the cell phone in the first place.
If there is one unbelievable part to the film it comes when Paul speaks with the CRT representative. CRT is the company Paul works for and when they return his phone call the representative takes Paul through a verbal contract absolving the company of any responsibility for Paul’s predicament, including the insurance on his life. This conversation should have ended the second Paul realized its true purpose. Whether Paul thought the insurance that would be taking care of his family was important or not, it becomes pointless when the battery to the cell phone is being wasted on something that doesn’t involve saving his life. But overall it’s a minor flaw.
Rodrigo Cortés can be congratulated on another point as well. If you haven’t seen the film then you should skip the next three paragraphs as they contain a spoiler. Through the film, the biggest question on the viewers mind is whether, by its end, Paul will be rescued. Cortés bases the majority of the suspense on this question alone. At the beginning you are skeptical, his cell phone is bleeding energy too quickly. He is in the middle of the Iraqi desert. But once Paul contacts Dan Brenner (the military officer assigned to finding American kidnap victims in Iraq), you begin to hope. When Brenner calls Paul saying he has in his custody a local Iraqi who knows Paul’s location you start to believe the film will have a happy ending.
Sand is filling the coffin, Paul has his face pressed against the ceiling of the box but it doesn’t dash your belief Paul will be rescued in time because they have arrived and are digging him out. You can mitigate the gut-wrenching emotions you’re feeling from his last call with his wife by grabbing a tight hold on your hope of a quick rescue. Cortés now has you in the palm of his hand. What will he do? He does exactly the opposite of what you think he will do, and that more than anything else, propels this film into Hitchcock-like greatness. The rescuers are at the wrong site, they have dug up Mark White, the medical student Dan Brenner used earlier in the film as an example of a successful rescue when Paul needed proof that he still had some hope for survival.
Paul dies and your left with a feeling of anger and melancholy; that nothing is right with the world; that positive outcomes are the realm of fantasy and to be real you must be cynical. But once your stress lowers, you come to realize that if the film did end happily it would have lost something. It would have joined the ranks of the thousands of other films out there made to order like a big mac and large fries. By avoiding the happiness Cortés makes a brilliant film, one of the best of 2010.
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Year Released:
- 24 September 2010
- Rodrigo Cortés
- Ryan Reynolds, José Luis García Pérez, Robert Paterson, Stephen Tobolowsky, Samantha Mathis, Erik Palladino, Chris William Martin
- Suspense, Thriller
- Official URL:
- Buried movie