This is a high concept film (helpfully, the concept keeps the budget nice and cheap). The whole idea is: 'Let's take a bloke, slap him in a box, bury him and stick a camera in there for 95 minutes.' It's taken me a while to get round to watching it, but I knew I would have to at some point.
Ryan Reynolds (who must have taken up most of the budget) plays Paul Conroy, a trucker working in Iraq. He gets hijacked by insurgents and held to ransom. Luckily, he has a handy little man bag in the box with him, full of useful trinkets: a phone, a lighter, a torch, alcohol, tablets of some description and some of those green glowy stick things.
Just as mobile phones seem to have scuppered horror films to a certain degree, with writers coming up with comedy ways of making the phones inoperable, lost or left behind, this film wouldn't have worked without their invention. It would have been fairly tedious to watch someone getting giddy in a box for the running time, so it was fairly necessary to let him talk to the outside world. He contacts relatives, the company he works for and the U.S. government to try to get out of his predicament. If Reynolds had been useless, Buried would have followed suit. But, as luck would have it, he's surprisingly good. Half an hour in an MRI scanner was enough for me, I don't know how he coped being in that box for however many days. He deserves a big Ginsters for being such a trooper.
Like another high concept film, Cube, the director makes it visually interesting for the viewer using different light sources. Hence the contents of his bag. Even within the confines of a box, we are still treated to some cracking images. The final scenes of sand pouring in are particularly effective (and harrowing) but my favourite shot is when the camera is looking down on Conroy and then slowly pulls up. I know it's not realistic, but it accurately conveys his isolation.
Starting this film, my thoughts were that it had to stick to the plan: you couldn't have any shots of the outside world. It would also have to have a satisfying ending. Buried scores on both points, so I came away happy. Films of this type surely have a ceiling of how good they can be and this is about as good as it gets.
If you like this you could also try:
Cube, Frozen, Devil.