Buried starts with an even more simple premise: Paul Conroy, a truck driver working in a Middle Eastern trouble spot, awakes to find himself buried alive in a rough coffin, with - initially - only a phone and a zippo lighter for company. After overcoming the terror that initially engulfs him, Conroy starts to make frantic phone calls in a desperate attempt to organise his own rescue. But with oxygen - and battery life - in short supply, he finds himself in a desperate race against time.
Ryan Reynolds excels as Conroy, turning in a very convincing display as his character flits from one emotion to another: terror, anger, frustration, sorrow. His believable performance is augmented by the sheer oppressiveness of his situation; the camera never leaves his coffin, so the watcher effectively spends the entire film locked in that cramped, dark space - Conroy's phone and lighter providing the light. The end result is an uncomfortably realistic depiction of the horror of being imprisoned six feet under.
Conroy's conversations with a variety of figures drives the story, and adds additional emotional depth. Some conversations are moving (his declaration of love to his wife) while others explore the cynical self-preservation employed by major corporations (Conroy's boss telling him he's fired and that the company won't pay insurance to his family in the event of his death ). The voice acting of some figures is unconvincing; sometimes the tone of the other person doesn't quite fit with the current emotion of Conroy, while the voice of 'Jabir' the antagonist is rather lacking in character - "You give one million money. Now!" - and is perhaps a missed opportunity to explore the insurgents' motives more.
Unconvincing segments of voice acting aside, Buried makes for an extremely uncomfortable two hours - for all the right reasons.