Sundance 2010: ‘Buried’ never leaves the coffin, and that’s good


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Before ‘Buried’ screened to a capacity crowd, some of which got in by standing in line for six hours, star Ryan Reynolds set the tone by telling the audience: ‘I hope you enjoy this film as much as I hated making it.’

The film was not only an ordeal for the star and filmmakers. Many in the audience commented afterward -- verbally and through numerous tweets that smart phone wielders instantly sent -- that their hearts were still racing and their hands still felt as if they were gripping the arm of their theater seats. The Brangelina breakup talk filtering through the audience was quickly forgotten as the film began.


Ryan Reynolds’ Paul Conroy opens the film in the dark, in a box. A guy who already has to take anxiety medication is not the most well-suited to be in this situation, but that’s where we find the contractor/truck driver. He’s been buried there by terrorists in Iraq, or as one of the characters in the film says, ‘people just like you and me,’ except that they resort to kidnapping for ransom when they’re in dire straits.

Inside of this box, which looks to be about 9 to 10 feet long and about 3 feet tall, is the Zippo lighter that Paul brought with him, the anxiety pills, a flask of alcohol, and, as Conroy later learns, a cellphone and a bag left by the terrorists with assorted goodies in it -- including a flashlight that doesn’t always work. The film is often mostly lighted, as director Rodrigo Cortes later confirmed, using Paul’s lighter (and light from the cellphone). Reynolds adds a touch of angsty comedy, but this suspense-filled film kept the audience on edge as they listened to Conroy’s frantic phone calls for help and to connect with his family. FBI, state officials, and even people on the ground in Iraq seem to be little consolation as time ticks on and the kidnappers’ demands are not met. It’s a solitary intense Ryan Reynolds, all the time (no cutting back to family -- worried or not).

And then there was also a stressed-out snake (again, according to Cortes).

The crowd cheered and gave the film rousing applause when it ended. Besides director Cortes and star Reynolds, screenwriter Chris Sparling came up on stage in the post-film Q&A. Reynolds’ mind-state inside of the confined space, Cortes’ choice to stick with one actor onscreen the whole time, and Sparling’s inspiration for writing the movie were just some of the many questions brought up. For Sparling, the idea was born of necessity.

‘I thought: ‘What would be the cheapest movie to make ever.’ I just thought of smaller and smaller locations, and less and less actors.’

Cortes also answered a lot of questions, including some from us as he stopped to have a chat, still basking in the post-screening glow.

-- Jevon Phillips



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