The prospect of a thriller featuring rom-com favourite Ryan Reynolds as the only actor on screen is not exactly enticing, but it’s time to throw all those prejudices away, as Reynolds gives a fantastic performance in a very fine film.
Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, who is working as a private contractor in Iraq when his convoy is ambushed. The next thing he knows is that he’s coming around in a dark box. His captors have also provided him with a mobile phone, and call him to tell him that he has to raise a ransom of $5 million before the phone’s battery runs out, or die in the coffin, buried alive. Problem set, Conroy sets to work and, through the phone calls, points are made about the frustration that is often caused by bureaucracy, the end of the nuclear family, and the privatisation of war. Government, corporations and the family are all held to account.
The one-location movie is difficult to make interesting. Alfred Hitchcock was the master of this unique theatre, making four such films: Lifeboat, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder and Rope. But even Hitchcock wasn’t foolish enough to make a movie with only one man on screen. Then again, he didn’t have access to mobile phones, the internet or video cameras, which directors can and are using as windows to the outside world. In Buried we hear several voices on the phone and the phone camera is used to see a couple of videos.
In this, his debut feature, Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés does a brilliant job of making one man in a coffin look interesting for an hour and a half by the clever use of angles, cranes and dolly shots that provide a sense of motion. He also makes use of black screen when the viewer, like the protagonist, cannot see what is going on. It’s bravado filmmaking to match the exhilarating egg-timer plot.
General release, Wed 29 Sep.