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Anywhere---a bathroom stall, an East Village one-bedroom---would be preferable to where the entirety of Buried traps us: a wooden coffin, underground. It's a cackleworthy conceit for a B thriller, exactly the kind of crafty stunt that Hitchcock would have loved, in his Rope mode. Down there in the box with us is Ryan Reynolds, who, playing an innocent Iraq-based contractor, finds himself a pawn in a hostage game that quickly involves a multimillion-dollar ransom ask and lots of panicky, politicized dialogue. (If ever there was a metaphor-movie too late to the Bush era, it's this one; it's even set in 2006.)

How can our curiosity last past the five-minute mark? Firstly, our guy has a fully charged smartphone (don't waste batteries!), allowing him to call from a tomb in Baghdad to America and, potentially, be tracked. He also can make desperate videos for YouTube, embarrassing the U.S. government. Adding flair are several light sources---a Zippo, a dodgy flashlight---creating visual texture. Spanish director Rodrigo Corts has an invigorating fondness for the zoom lens. But the movie's real asset is Reynolds himself, utilizing his comedy chops for unexpected levity. (Arguing with time-wasting bureaucrats, he'd rather not call his problem a "situation"; it's a "coffin.") Some of the plot turns are too wonderful to ruin; let's just say Buried even finds room for a brawl.

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Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Screenwriter: Chris Sparling
Cast: José Luis García Pérez
Stephen Tobolowsky
Ryan Reynolds
Samantha Mathis
Robert Paterson
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