Buried, directed by Rodrigo Cortes and starring Ryan Reynolds, is a Hitchockian thriller that plays on two big fears. The first fear is claustrophobia. The second fear is that people don't really give a shit about you.
Lets start with the Hitchcock. The film this most resembles is Rope, and not just because of the "gimmick." The gimmick in Rope is that is was all filmed in one shot (not true, but it looks pretty damn good.) The gimmick with Buried is that it all takes place in a box. Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a typical "everyman" truck driver who is taken hostage and buried underground in Iraq. His tormentors are kind enough to leave him a zippo lighter, a flashlight, a flask, and a cell phone. I can't get reception in my apartment in Palo Alto but Paul Conroy has perfect reception six feet underground. He must not have AT&T.
For Hitchcock the gimmick did not overshadow the story. Rope is still an intense thriller, and so is Buried. Political and social commentary aside (and there is plenty here) the main question is: Will he get out of the box? Will Jimmy Stewart figure out where the body is? With Hitchcock we kind of knew the answer. With this film, it is not so clear.
Now the fear. Claustrophobia. As someone who is a mild sufferer I found myself squirming throughout this entire film. Cortes does not let you out of the coffin once. There are not even any flashbacks! I have to admire his commitment. Reynolds portrays the paranoia and rising anxiety very well. I can't think of very many films that play on this fear so well.
The second fear: That no one gives a shit. Not entirely true for Conroy. His wife cares, but he doesn't get to talk to her until the final minutes. He thinks the government cares, but they lie to him, and he and the audience get the feeling that they are stringing him along. Finally, the company he works for. They only care about cutting their losses, and the final phone call between Conroy and his Human Resources guy is more chilling than any other element of this film. I feel the same way when I talk to my Human Resources guy.
I can't say this film was "enjoyable." When it was over I felt like I had been buried in a coffin for two hours. It is well written and well acted. It is scary. It won't keep me up all night, but it did make me think..."That could happen to me."