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Film / Buried

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Buried is a 2010 English-language Spanish thriller film directed by Rodrigo Cortés, written by Chris Sparling, and starring Ryan Reynolds.

Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a US Contractor in Iraq. After an attack on his convoy, he awakens in a coffin with no idea how he got there. He has only a cell phone and a lighter, and starts to make frantic calls as he tries to remember what had happened to him and why this is happening to him now.

Buried premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in early 2010.

This film provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: Played With. Paul uses a zippo lighter in the beginning of the movie, as the coffin is pitch black and he doesnít want to use up the phone battery. When he mentions this to Brenner, the latter encourages him to use it in order to find markings around the coffin, despite the formerís protests, acknowledging that itís actively eating away at his oxygen supply. Despite this, Paul uses the lighter quite liberally, before and after he finds the flashlight left for him, and it doesnít seem to affect his breathing all that much.
  • All There in the Manual: The kidnapper's name, Jabir, is only revealed in the credits.
  • Buried Alive: The premise of the entire movie.
  • Chiaroscuro: No sunlight penetrates the coffin, and the artificial light sources make harsh shadows.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: Dan tells Paul that they've found him, and begin unburying him. The one they found ends up being Mark White, not Paul.
  • Daydream Surprise: Paul finally gets bathed in light as a team of soldiers unbury him and crack the coffin open, only for the movie to cut back to Paul, still staring at the wooden boards above him and daydreaming.
  • Desperate Plea for Home: When talking to the Iraqi insurgents who have buried him alive for the first time, Paul pleads for them to let him go home. They don't listen.
  • Downer Ending: Possibly an Ambiguous Ending. After the credits, there's a cryptic shot that shows us that Paul wrote the name Mark White on the lid of his coffin. The meaning of the shot is not immediately clear. It's possible that they dug Paul up successfully, took off the lid, saw the name on it, and assumed it was Mark White. The scene appears to be shot so that the lid is still on and the coffin is filling up with sand, but it's somewhat ambiguous, and Paul is out of it so the film could simply be showing us his perception of the situation. That still leaves a dead 26-year-old med student out there in Iraq somewhere, but the movie wasn't about him so it's a little less depressing.
  • Driven to Suicide: Very closely subverted. After having been sent a video of his colleague Pamela being shot and killed, Paul drags a knife across his throat and replays the moment in his mind, having numerous flashbacks as he deeply ponders going through with it. It isnít until he remembers the voice of his son that he decides to keep going.
  • Enclosed Space: It doesn't get any more enclosed than the coffin.
  • False Reassurance: Paul seems to be Genre Savvy about this, and asks Dan to give him at least one example of a civilian being rescued from a premature burial to prove that heís not being led on. Dan relates to Paul the story of Mark White, a 26-year old med student who was similarly kidnapped by insurgents and buried alive, but was rescued by Dan. Paul is slightly skeptical about this claim but uses that as a symbol of hope. Sadly, this was indeed just a way to keep Paul calm while Dan does everything he can to find the coffin. He ends up actually finding the coffin of Mark White at the worst possible time, apologizing profusely as Paul dies knowing that heíd been clinging to false hope.
  • Finally Found the Body: The capper of the Cruel Twist Ending is that, whatever Dan the negotiator did offscreen to be led to the alleged location of Paul's burial site, he was instead led to the one of Mark White - the hostage Dan had told Paul about as a successful rescue months ago. The film ends with Paul apparently dying as Dan undergoes a Heroic BSoD.
  • Fingore: Paul's captors make him cut off his own finger.
  • 555: Averted. Several full phone numbers are mentioned over the course of the film, none of them including 555.
  • Flashback: Averted, while most of the viewers expect to see some flashbacks to mix up a bit the constant scenes with just the wooden box and Ryan in it, the movie never actually leaves the box. The closest the movie comes to having flashbacks is when Paul is considering suicide after watching Pamelaís execution. He replays the audio in his head and hears the many calls he made shortly after, ending with the voice of his son, Shane, from his homeís voicemail.
  • The Hero Dies: The film ends as the box Paul was buried alive in fills with sand, capping off a brutal Hope Spot.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Everyone except Paul and his colleague, Pamela.
  • Hope Spot: A particularly nasty one. Mixes with Downer Ending. Dan calls Paul just as his coffin is almost completely filled with dirt and tells him that they've found him. Paul's wife, Linda, calls and he switches over to tell her they've found him. They exchange "I love yous", then he switches back to Dan. On the other line, you hear the soldiers digging, desperately trying to get Paul out. At the last second, Dan apologizes and tells Paul that they've been led to the wrong person just as the coffin fills up completely. Cue credits.
    • The Hope Spot is two-fold. The body they find is that of a man that Dan earlier tells Paul that he saved months ago. Since he had to lie just to give one example of a successful rescue, Dan has presumably never saved anyone before. What little hope for rescue Paul had throughout the film was based on a lie.
  • Idiot Ball: Several cases. Paul's kidnappers initially not telling him about the bag at the foot of the coffin (and indeed placing it in such a difficult place to begin with), despite obviously wanting him to use it. Also, leaving Paul a Zippo (which would burn up oxygen, cutting Paul's life expectancy short and leaving the kidnappers less time to get their ransom), when they also left him a flashlight. Also the silver hip flask which, in normal circumstances, would also most likely be looted.
  • I Have a Family: Paul pleads to his kidnapper to let him go, as he wants to see his wife and son again. This mightíve unintentionally endangered them, as the kidnapper reveals that he has his credentials, and threatens to go after Paulís family if he doesnít give into his demands.
    • Pamela Lutti was a mother of two kids, not that it saved her from her execution.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The American invasion on Iraqi soil is Jabir's justification for him and the insurgents to kidnap and/or kill every single American they see. He points out that 9/11 and the actions of Saddam Hussein were not the fault of his people and yet Americans are still occupying their land. Dan also points out how easy it is for Paul, an American, to say that he wouldn't commit some of the atrocities the insurgents commit for the sake of their families since he wouldn't typically be in a situation where he has his land taken from him and has to do anything he can to protect his own family.
  • Kick the Dog: Paul's employer phoning him in the coffin to inform him his employment has been retroactively terminated to prior to his abduction and his family will not receive any benefits. Jesus Christ, that was low.
  • Minimalist Cast: Ryan Reynolds is the only actor shown. Save for one character seen in a video on a cell phone, there's no one else in the film.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers promoted this as being similar to the Saw movies. It is nothing like it at all, and is closer to an art film.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Paul attempting to reason with the kidnapper by mentioning his family ends up putting them in the crosshairs, as the kidnapper threatens to kill them if Paul doesnít cut off his finger and/or pay the ransom.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Paul's employers, who contact him to let him know that they've retroactively fired him, dating his termination as the previous day. That means that his family won't get any benefits or insurance from him, and they're covering their own behinds from any legal culpability in his death.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Literally the only lights come from a lighter and an old flashlight giving off yellow/orange light and a cellphone and glowstick giving off blue/green light. Combine the two together as occurs in several shots and you get this.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The entire film builds up to a point where it seems like Paul will be rescued, only for the final moments to have the hostage negotiators sadly reveal that they were given the wrong location. Paul suffocates and dies. The end.
  • Small, Secluded World: Almost nothing gets in or out of the coffin, not even the camera.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: While Paul was sleeping, a snake crawled up his pants. The next scene shows Paul waking up as it slides out of his pants, where he sets it on fire.
  • Stress Vomit: Paul vomits violently after watching Pamela get executed by their captors.
  • Super Cell Reception: Paul Conroy manages to make calls to the USA with a mobile phone, while buried in a wooden coffin in Iraq. He only loses one or two calls to a bad signal, and the battery manages to last the entirety of the film. Of course, since the action never leaves the coffin, he has to be able to call people.