Buried could well win some sort of award for the most tightly constrained space that it manages to get its protagonist into it keeps him buried inside a coffin for the length of the film. It would be interesting to see if any subsequent film in this conceptual economy thriller sub-genre manages to top Buried to the extent to which they constrict the drama. Of course, such a feat requires an exceptional level of dramatic fidelity in order not to cheat on the premise. There must have been enormous pressure on director Rodrigo Cortes and writer Chris Sparling during pitching to open the story up in some way to show cuts away to the drama happening outside or split the screen up to let us see the people that Ryan Reynolds is communicating with as Phone Booth, Devil and many of these others did. To their credit, Rodrigo Cortes and Chris Sparling keep faith to their premise the film never moves out of the coffin and is focused solely on Ryan Reynolds throughout there is a reasonable name cast present but none of these appear as anything other than voices on the other end of the phone. The camera remains inside the box with Ryan Reynolds, although there are the occasional shots where it pulls out beyond or above the frame of the tight confines, although never leaves the coffin.
The question on my mind as I sat down to watch Buried was how much drama could a film that features only one actor who is kept in a coffin for the duration and never moves outside of that manage to achieve. For all the ingenuity of its concept, you have to admit that Buried has taken on an enormous challenge that severely limits it in terms of what it can do. This is compensated somewhat by the conversations as Ryan Reynolds tries to get someone to help him on the phone. These scenes do not necessarily generate suspense but do leave one with a sense of the almost impossible enormity of the task facing Ryan Reynolds as he attempts to get someone somewhere in the world to help him and is constantly being put on hold, facing answering machines, or is being transferred to another department and encountering people obsessed with bureaucratic minutiae. In this respect, Buried could almost fall into another type of thriller the Kafka-esque model. This becomes particularly bleak during the climactic scenes when Ryan Reynolds gets through to his mother but she cannot remember him in her Alzheimers ridden state and then finally gets a response from his boss, only to be asked a series of questions that rapidly become a legal affidavit as he is informed that he is now fired for inappropriate liaison with another member of staff (whether he is guilty of such is a question that remains unanswered).
Elsewhere, Rodrigo Cortes amps the drama by introducing things such as a snake inside the coffin during which Ryan Reynolds nearly sets himself on fire, bombing of the area causing the coffin to start filling with sand and the deadline introduced by the abductor who demands that Reynolds make a video for broadcast of him sawing off his own finger. After a slow build-up, Rodrigo Cortes does a more than admirable job of sustaining the tension right up until the end of the film and its final dark sting. As such, Buried can only be commended for keeping to the essential purity of its premise.
Rodrigo Cortes subsequently went onto direct/write the fine psychic investigators films Red Lights (2012), as well as to write the script for the haunted house film Emergo/Apartment 413 (2011) and the thriller Grand Piano (2013). Screenwriter Chris Sparling also subsequently went on to direct the impressive psychic powers/possession Found Footage film The Atticus Institute (2015).