For the month of April, my movie reviews will take a look at some of the better underrated films made prior to 2017 that weren’t nominated for any Academy Awards. This is a way to help some movies that have flown under the radar for years, or even decades, get the recognition they properly deserve.
Under the radar is an understatement when it comes to the film “Buried” which was made in 2010. It starred Ryan Reynolds and was directed by Chris Sparling, who has since carved out a niche for himself making small-budget movies with well-known actors.
The film premiered at Sundance in 2010 and was given a wide release by Lionsgate that fall and while it grossed $21 million, far making up for its $2 million budget, it still went largely unseen by most of the general public.
It stars Reynolds as Paul Conroy, an American civilian who works as a truck driver in Iraq who awakens in many people’s worst nightmare: buried alive in a coffin six feet underground. Conroy quickly remembers that he and his colleagues were ambushed by terrorists and realizes he is being held hostage after one of the terrorists calls and demands a $5 million ransom.
As Conroy attempts to negotiate with the terrorist and work with the U.S. State Department, who refuses to pay the ransom but works to rescue him, the film escalates his situation in such a brilliant way that makes the viewer feel as if they are lying right next to the man in the coffin.
A nearby bombing from F-16 jets breaks Conroy’s coffin slightly which causes it to slowly fill with sand. On top of that, the terrorists increase the pressure on Conroy by forcing him to watch the execution of one of his colleagues who survived and threatening his family.
The entire thing is mostly from just a few angles of Reynolds in the dark with no other lighting other than the one coming from his phone or the lighter given to him. It was a gutsy choice given the 21st century audience’s constant need for visual stimulation in movies but Sparling takes such a daring approach in his lack of score or variety that it connects the viewer with Conroy and truly relays his feeling to them.
“Buried” is also one of Reynolds’ best works as an actor as he fights to remain calm in an impossible situation and yet also has such a real touch of desperation amongst that fight not to lose all control.
While the movie has the typical tropes of a suspense movie, a 90-minute window to be rescued and the “I’m sorry” call to the family, those tropes are actually what makes the movie so special. In the 21st century, there is very little original content to be found, in nearly a century of moviemaking, tropes is simply an inevitability. It is a film’s ability to make the most out of those that determines its greatness.
“Buried” takes those moments that the audience knows all too well and throws so much impact behind it that the climatic ending literally to the last second of the film will stay with them for days after watching. It’s an extraordinarily impactful film that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud in its subtle horror that is in no way cheap but instead a deep, sophisticated suspense that is simply told. In that simplicity, that is where the audience is impacted the most.
“Buried” takes simple visuals and storytelling but its storytelling creates a character that the audience not only feels as if they are stuck in the coffin with him but hopes more than most characters in film, he survives throughout the ordeal. It is one of the most underrated films of 2010 and that’s a shame given Reynolds’ and Sparling’s combined efforts to create a modern day classic.