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‘Buried’ may resonate deep down with some viewers

"Buried" would make an awesome double bill alongside "Inception," as opposite ends of the clever, concept-movie spectrum.

"Buried" would make an awesome double bill alongside "Inception," as opposite ends of the clever, concept-movie spectrum.

"Inception," of course, is Christopher Nolan's ingenious and successful gambit to tell a story in half a dozen narrative planes at once.

"Buried" is its antithesis, just one story, one visible character, one exceedingly grim reality, from which the movie never departs. No matter how much you want it to.

It's an improbably involving thriller featuring Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, a civilian contractor in Iraq stuck in a coffin, placed there by bandits who've attacked his convoy and captured him.

With Paul are a cell phone, a flashlight, a lighter and a knife - inanimate co-stars that each, in due time, get a featured scene.

The movie has been described as an exercise in extended claustrophobia, and that's sort of true, but it's also true that I found it less constricted and oppressive than "Jack Goes Boating."

"Buried" director Rodrigo Cortes finds dozens of inventive ways to shoot and light Reynolds, so the movie achieves a surprising degree of visual variability.

And though Ryan is on screen alone, he has great chemistry with his cell phone, placed at his side by his kidnappers, who encourage him to contact his employer, the state department, the military - anyone who'll help him raise a sizable ransom.

Conroy's phone-call flurry is mostly engaging, often darkly funny - for a while, the only person he can find is his mother-in-law, with whom he has an apparently unhappy relationship.

In between phone calls, Cortes tosses in some amusingly cheap horror-thriller flourishes (Paul takes a quick nap and wakes up to find something crawling up his trouser leg).

"Buried" has some obvious things to say about the exploitation of civilian contractors in Iraq, the surge, expendable Americans - and surely the movie was conceived when these things had more hot-button relevance.

But "Buried" has a strange resonance beyond its obvious context, one that seems to speak (like "Inception") to a beleaguered, pessimistic audience.

Feeling boxed-in lately?


Left with few options?

A dubious future?

This could be the movie for you, whether you've been to Iraq, or some place only slightly less devastated, like here.

A scene of Paul having a conversation with his human-resources department is a nasty portrait of corporate heartlessness, and while it's shamelessly manipulative, it also feels, alas, almost plausible.