Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
When A Serbian Film was dropped from the line-up during the first day of the festival, Frightfesters were up in arms about the loss of one of the weekend’s most anticipated movies and a bit of a frenzy ensued about the worrying modern climate of censorship in the UK.
Some of us, however, distressed at the loss of a film due to the BBFC not allowing the print into the country, were excited about the prospect of a secret movie. Hints were dropped over the days leading up to its unveiling and it was eventually revealed to be Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried, A film some cynical attendees rebuked purely due to its Hollywood background.
Idiots, the lot of them. Buried is one of the finest and most succinctly well-executed genre movies I’ve ever seen. Its premise is alarmingly simple; a man wakes up to find that he is buried in a wooden box. He has a phone with a rapidly depleting battery and a handful of other items including a lighter and a pencil. He tries to find a way to escape.
Keeping this basic concept interesting for the duration of 90 minutes is no simple matter – that Cortés manages to create something so unrelentingly fascinating, frightening, inventive, realistic, funny, tragic, and genuinely emotive is awe-inspiring. If only Joel Schumacher’s shoddy Phone Booth had contained one iota of the cinematic verve and balls of this relatively low-budget endeavor.
But despite Cortes’ consistently brilliant and endlessly inventive angles and filming techniques, the film simply wouldn’t have worked without its, lead Ryan Reynolds, who is on screen for the film’s entire running time. He has proven to be engaging enough in movies such as The Amityville Horror, The Nines, and The Proposal (you’d have to be a brilliant actor to not look constantly terrified to be in that movie), but he’s mostly made his career based on his effortless charm and likability. Buried rectifies this and showcases his real talents as a present, dedicated actor of remarkable range. The audience is with him on every part of his emotional journey and he finds just the right balance to keep us tight rope walking with him, trying to figure out how it can all end up.
The cinematography is also incredible, which might sound like an odd thing to say since it’s all set in one location. Eduard Grau (A Single Man) outdoes himself by overcoming the limitations of the small space and creates a gorgeous looking environment thanks to multiple lighting techniques. The editing is also spot on, and the subtle score courtesy of Victor Reyes adds to the tension.
It’s hard to really recommend this movie enough. It’s certainly not a traditional horror film – in fact, it’s far more of a concept drama set within a thriller’s set-piece. It’s completely arresting to watch and by the time the end credits come up, you’ll be emotionally exhausted but in the best possible way. As a piece of cinema it succeeds on pretty much every level, even managing to deal with dozens of themes and subtexts, including terrorism, war, politics, corporate America, and trust. It’s invigorating and brilliant and deserves to become a minor classic.