Greetings again from the darkness. My comments about last week’s Devil dwelled on the aspect of claustrophobia in being stranded in a stuck elevator with strangers. Forget all that! In this compelling film, Ryan Reynolds wakes up in an enclosed coffin. With a head injury. Buried. In Iraq. With a cell phone. And a lighter. This takes claustrophobia and anxiety attacks to a whole new level. If you have read Edgar Allan Poe‘s “The Premature Burial”, you have a sense.
Somehow writer Chris Sparling, director Rodrigo Cortes and Ryan Reynolds all bought off on the idea that the ENTIRE FILM should be shot from WITHIN THE COFFIN. Yes, that’s correct. There are no flashbacks to Paul’s (Ryan Reynolds) home life or the convoy ambush. There are no scenes of the FBI working the phones on his behalf. There are no scenes of the kidnappers in some darkened basement. None of that. Just Reynolds. In his wooden coffin. From all angles. In the past, I labeled Ryan Reynolds as just another plug-in for rom-coms. While his rom-coms rarely appeal to me, I have come to respect him for stretching himself as an actor in other genres.
Paul Conroy, an American contractor working in Iraq, wakes up in a coffin. His kidnappers have provided a cell phone and inform him that he will be released only if they are paid “5 million money”. Paul spends the rest of the film frantically trying to arrange for the ransom by contacting his family, his employer, the FBI and the State Department. I will say no more other than I found my breathing getting quick and shallow and my palms sweaty just watching the plight of this unfortunate man.
There are no outside scenes, excluding a very short, disturbing video the kidnappers send him through the cell phone. The phone conversations are fascinating. You will voice-recognize the great Stephen Tobolowsky as the personnel director performing some quick legal ass-covering. You might also recognize the voice of Tess Harper as Maryann – presumable the mother of Paul’s wife as he tries to make contact. Neither of these are warm fuzzies, but both add to the heightened stress level and desperation.
This is not really a film we would want to watch a second time, but interestingly enough, I could see it becoming a cult fixture similar to “Rocky Horror”. The audience could show up with their cell phone, a lighter, a flask and a couple of other props that I won’t disclose here. Sometimes the best way to handle fear is to laugh in its face. Oh, and answer your cell when loved one’s call. Lastly … I don’t want to be buried alive.
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you enjoy anxiety attacks
SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you freak out in a traffic jam OR expect to see Reynolds’ abs.