A film designed to rattle claustrophobics, Buried situates itself exclusively inside an underground wooden coffin inhabited by Paul Conroy (a suitably frantic and furious Ryan Reynolds), a U.S. contractor working in Iraq. Armed only with a lighter and a cell phone, Paul tries to make sense of his predicament while not completely losing his mind, eventually learning that he’s being held for $5 million ransom by anonymous Iraqi insurgents. As Paul struggles to contact someone who can help as well as communicates with captors who demand that he make a hostage video, director Rodrigo Cortés maintains a rigorous gaze on his protagonist – his camera never exiting the coffin, and its twisting, turning, cramped POV generally true to the character’s confinement, Cortés creates both empathy and suspense via suffocating proximity. Paul’s attempts to contact his wife and son, enlist help from State Department experts, and deal with an employer interested in covering his own ass make up the brunt of Buried’s talky action, which boasts an urgency amplified by clues that subtly suggest that everything isn’t what it seems. A brief encounter with an animal intruder plays out phonily, and subtexts about nation-building, corporate callousness and the disposability of life during wartime do little to enhance the material. Otherwise, though, Cortés’ film remains a vigorous piece of stripped-down genre filmmaking, conveying the intensity and introspective horror of its subject’s extreme life-or-death circumstances far more authentically and grippingly than the similar, flashier and shallower 127 Hours.