When Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) awakens, he finds himself in total darkness. Frantic, he locates a Zippo and, lighting it, discovers that he is trapped inside a coffin. An American truck driver in Iraq, Conroy realizes that his convoy was attacked and that he has been imprisoned by insurgents. Shortly thereafter, a phone rings and a dark voice on the other end informs him that he has only a few hours to secure a $10 million ransom or he will be left to die. What follows is an intense race to determine his own whereabouts and those of his captors before his grave becomes permanent.
"Buried" is an outstanding concept that depends half on the atmosphere of the coffin and half on the performance of the man trapped within it. Shot entirely in one location (a coffin) with essentially only one actor on screen (Reynolds), it's easy to understand why the film's production budget ($3 million) was so low. The shots are tight, giving the viewer the appropriate feel for the claustrophobic conditions. Reynolds fulfills his part of the bargain admirably. Conroy fluctuates between moments of panic and those of decided action, making every call he can think of to try to bring aid. Reynolds excels in this role, displaying a brilliant mix of frustration, fear, and determination. As usual, he brings a certain charisma to his character and that is what makes the difference for "Buried." The situation in and of itself, while tragic, is not necessarily enough to keep an audience invested for the 95 minute run time; you need a compelling and sympathetic character to root for and Reynolds provides it.
Some films, though, don't translate as well from the big screen to a living room TV set and "Buried" is one of them. I think some of the power of "Buried" was probably stripped away because I didn't see it in a theater and the drama of the film's environment was watered down a bit for me. That said, the back and forth between hope and failure (not to mention a twist that works well) creates palpable tension and a movie that is well worth a viewing.