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★★★★✩

Buried

Starring Ryan Reynolds

Directed by Rodrigo Cortes

Opening October 8

Let’s get this out of the way first — Buried is a disturbing, deeply uncomfortable film, and claustrophobic moviegoers would do well to avoid it. The film stars Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, an American truck-driver working for a company in Iraq. After an attack on his unarmed convoy by insurgents, he awakens to find himself trapped in a coffin; armed with a phone, a Zippo lighter, and a knife, he frantically searches for a way to escape before it becomes his tomb.

The story is compelling and the main character­ — an “everyman” in over his head if ever there was one — is in such a plight that the audience can’t help being drawn into his shoes, almost experiencing his predicament. The film stays focused on the protagonist like a laser, never deviating from its purpose. Conroy is, with a debatable exception, the only onscreen character in the movie; a large part of the movie’s ability to draw the audience in so well is the fact that the interior of his coffin is the only real backdrop. This movie is about as minimalist as they come — one actor, one backdrop, and a few voices — it’s almost something that could have been made by any aspiring writer with a vision.

As far as point of view goes, this film is as close as possible to being in the first-person perspective without actually being so; it gets into the minds of viewers and makes us wonder what we would do if we were in the protagonist’s position. We aren’t just rooting for him to escape, we’re rooting for him as if he were us. That protagonist isn’t perfect; he may not even be all that moral of an individual. Over the course of the movie we get a look at how flawed he is as a person, yet that ultimately makes him easier to identify with. Throughout the movie we get a glimpse at how unhelpful and heartless people can be; also, the reality that Iraq is an extremely dangerous place where disaster regularly happens faster than anyone can react. When Conroy starts to come to grips with the fact that he’s more or less alone out there, so are we.

The often-underrated Ryan Reynolds turns in a brilliant performance in this movie, flexing his acting chops and showing us what he’s capable of. With a lesser actor, Buried would have far less impact. In many ways, this film is a study in futility; one could find it depressing if not for the fact that it’s also a “ticking time bomb” scenario that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats right up to the climactic final moments.

This film is not for the faint of heart. That said, it leaves a powerful and vivid vision, one that will likely stay with viewers for a long time. It isn’t the best movie of the year by any means, yet it may well be one of the most absorbing; it also contains an abundance of subtle messages that many of us can interpret and appreciate differently. It is ironic that the film takes place inside of a coffin, because it is really a story about life — and how much it means to us when we’re in danger of losing it.