Care to spend an hour and a half trapped in a box buried underground?
Well, who would. Certainly the prospect doesn't seem tremendously appealing to Paul Conroy, a truck driver delivering supplies to aid the rebuilding efforts in Iraq who wakes, after his convoy is attacked - imagine that! - to find himself buried alive in an old wooden coffin. Held to an impossible ransom by an opportunistic local, Paul finds in the claustrophobic confines of his (and our) home for the next ninety minutes a Zippo lighter and a mobile phone.
The mobile phone felt to me like an easy out, at first: an instant fix pasted to the singular problem you'd be faced with if you meant to make a movie about being buried alive, because of course it'd be deathly dull without dialogue, wouldn't it? Well, that isn't quite the case. In fact, the tense first ten minutes of Paul's imprisonment, before he comes across the phone and starts calling a catalogue of folks - some of which, brilliantly, put him on hold - are easily Buried's strongest... though the unsettling last ten come close.
Buried is a ballsy film, at its best when it's at its brashest. Alas, in short order Paul finds enough equipment - a torch, a knife, some rags and a flask of alcohol - to last him through everything but his own stupidity, and the almost unbearable sense of danger established in the opening act recede somewhat, until the climax approaches and a promise of potential escape is made. In the interim, less would almost certainly have been more: Buried could have done with a little less inane chatter, a marked decrease in terms of overbearing - though I suppose inevitable - preaching about (you guessed it) the war on terror, and several fewer of the painfully slow pulls and zooms on Paul which seem to exist largely to pad out the action to the requisite hour and a half.
But even at its lowest ebb, which is not so low in the moment, Buried is never less than thrilling. Buoyed by a powerful, if predictable performance from this summer's Green Lantern - and indeed 2012's Deadpool - Ryan Reynolds, and following through on a concept few would have dared consider as fodder for a feature-length film, Buried does a great deal with a very little. A heart-thumpingly horrific indie which takes claustrophobia in cinema to new heights - and depths.