Be warned the film starts and continues with a black screen for at least a minute or so, do not adjust your set. Listen carefully and sound effects begin to slowly emerge, a scrape here, a rushed breath there, the sound of sand slowly moving against wood.
So starts an interesting film by director Rodrigo Cortes, who snags a Hollywood A-Lister in the form of Ryan Reynolds and puts him in a box. Not figuratively speaking, but quite literally and keeps him there for 95 minutes.
Paul Conroy (Reynolds), is a civilian truck driver in Iraq and finds himself living out his own worst nightmare. This is a film that is as diametrically opposed to Reynold’s turn as the “Green Lantern”, as it is possible to get.
One actor is seen throughout and there are no costume or set changes, minimalism is the keyword. Paul Conroy wakes up in a coffin, buried alive with only a few meagre items, Zippo lighter and pencil to his name. It’s pitch black, the only lighting we see is the simulated illumination from his lighter.
If you suffer from claustrophobia, this is not the film for you. This plays as a thriller but at it’s core, this is a an exhausting human drama. What would you do, how might you react in similar circumstance. Would you be able to use the only really useful tool at your disposal, your mind?
Latterly finding a mobile phone, Conroy makes ever more frustrated and terrified phone calls, and we share his exasperation and increasing desperation. Never have answer machines sounded so callous and uncaring, automated responses and switchboards representing possible life and death delay.
Whilst we never see another actor, we do get to hear both sides of various telephone conversations with rescuers and family members. Alan Davenport (Tobolowsky) is particularly chilling as the HR director you cannot believe could exist but secretly know does. Modern audiences know that companies might act in exactly the same way portrayed, if circumstances demanded it.
Cortez decides to play a non political game, focusing on one man’s predicament rather than the wider picture. In doing so he exposes many of the larger truths that exist in the involvement of the US in Iraq and the indigenous populations reaction to their presence.
Not so much terrorists and invaders, rather desperate people on both sides attempting to make a living in whatever way left open to them.
Not for everyone but if the concept is interesting to you, the film is well written, well acted and well directed. Bearing in mind the static location, the camera remains fluid and the angles and obvious slight deceits on height and width, keep the viewer interested.
The ending is not what you might expect or maybe it is, this will depend on your world outlook and glass half full/half empty philosophy.
The film is relatively brief, which suits the subject matter and was filmed in 17 days in a Spanish studio, utilizing seven different coffins. The screenplay leaves the actor stripped of almost all props or artifice and as a consequence, the film completely rests on Reynolds acting ability and he does not disappoint.
Certainly not a horror film, despite the title. Whilst the film will do little for the Iraq tourist industry, it is certainly well worth a watch if the concept interests you.