Stuck With Him

The concept of being buried alive is unpleasant for most folks, and though being accompanied by the ever-charming Ryan Reynolds may sweeten the trauma, claustrophobic filmgoers may want to give this flick a pass.

If you can’t decide whether “Buried” is the film for you, ask yourself (except you, Scarlett Johansson. We already know how you feel on the matter): Does being trapped in a cramped space in the dark for over an hour with Reynolds seem like a blast?

There isn’t much else to the film — what you see is what you get. Here’s the rundown: Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) has been buried alive and only has at his disposal a lighter, a cell phone and a quickly diminishing amount of air. With these few items, you expect the rest of the film’s plot to unravel predictably. Paul screams for help as hordes of special teams units panic and his wife and young son dissolve into tears when they hear his voice over the phone. But refreshingly — delightfully, even — those assumptions are wrong.

Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés didn’t concern himself at all with the standard thriller formula in the making of “Buried.” He determined that the only way to put us into Paul’s mindset as he struggles for life in his wooden box was, essentially, to put us in the box — for the entire 95 minutes of the film. When Paul is in the dark, the audience is, quite literally, in the dark with him. There is no night vision camera to show us what he is doing, and sometimes the darkness lasts for unprecedented lengths of time. The audience’s discomfort is palpable.

But perhaps this is a good thing. Paul Conroy certainly isn’t comfortable. He is sweating and breathless and bleeding — and we can see it all at an unnervingly close distance. The camera, also confined to the coffin, is hell-bent on examining every inch of the terror and pain shooting through his body.

For the film’s only actor, the pressure is on. Ryan Reynolds, of washboard abs and pearly whites fame, dives into the restricted role surprisingly well — a real shocker considering he is best known for comedies such as “Van Wilder” and “The Proposal.” However, in “Buried,” Reynolds is out to prove that he isn’t just the funny man with a hot body. Fortunately, Reynolds sweats and curses with the best of them and carries the film’s colossal weight on his own. True, voices can be heard on the phone, but for all intents and purposes, this is a one-man movie.

Some people will be unhappy about this. Watching one man cope with the possibility of his own death so realistically is not your typical nachos-and-Icee fare. At no point is the film enjoyable to look at, but with suspense that sticks with you long after the lights have come back up, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching.