Ryan Reynolds makes some questionable choices. His films hurtle from quirky, likeable affairs, like The Nines or Adventureland, to the appalling, like The Proposal or The Amityville Horror. Arguably this extends to his choice in girlfriends through the years, although you’d have to ask one of them if this makes it ironic.

Choosing to appear in Buried looks to be a more inspired moment for our man Van Wilder. This taut, high concept film shreds every frame of its short running time into a dense, claustrophobic tale of one man’s struggle to survive. We wake up in the dark with Paul Conroy (Reynolds), a truck driver in Iraq whose been boxed up and buried alive, and we stay in the dark for the duration of the film. Keeping him company is a mobile phone, a Zippo and a pencil. As Conroy’s fears and foibles unravel before our eyes a well structured plot takes shape cleverly commenting on America’s presence in Iraq, red tape and our dependence on technology with equally entertaining and heartbreaking consequences. Spanish Director Rodrigo Cortés squeezes and chokes the life out of his one location impressively but what really holds the film together is the dialogue – Chris Sparling’s words wheeze out of Reynolds with desperate realism and the supporting cast, although never seen, remain with us long after we leave that box.

This can proudly sit at the top of the recent budget-slashing, one-location trend but, then, it’s not hard to beat Night Shamylan’s Devil. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny Boyle and James Franco can do with mountain scare story 127 Hours – maybe then we will see this burgeoning mini-genre pushed to its limits.

How much you like Buried will depend on how much you care about Conroy’s plight and how much peril you can sit through before it becomes predictable. Of course the battery is going to run out and his pencil scribbling will become important but it’s the journey that counts and Reynolds and Cortés take us through it with commendable aplomb.

By Ian Roebuck

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Originally published in issue 21 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. September 2010