The thoughts of spending all of 95 minutes in a box with wisecracking, hit-and-miss star Ryan Reynolds may fill you with dread, but give the man another chance: 'Buried' is a smart little thriller that gives the Canadian actor the opportunity to flex his acting muscles on the tightest of sets.

Easy, safe money and plenty of it, they said. That's how taking a job as a contractor in Iraq was sold to truck driver Paul Conroy (Reynolds). But now a wounded Conroy has woken up in a wooden box underground. Where exactly is he? Who put him there? What do they want? Why has he been given a mobile phone? And when will his air run out?

The first English-language feature from Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés, 'Buried' has a lean script that mixes tension, black humour, hope and hopelessness and proves once again that the simple ideas are often the best. The Hitchcock-style opening credits look like they cost more than the rest of the film, but 'Buried' revels in its low budget approach and Cortés will make the money men in Hollywood sit up and take notice. Here a ringing phone, battery life, coverage difficulties and automatons at the other end of the line are just as effective as elaborate set pieces. Have no fears about being bored, but if you don't like confined spaces maybe think twice before buying a ticket.

While he does more grunting in the early scenes than an older brother with a hangover, this is one of Reynolds' best performances. With the camera stuck right up his nostrils, he gets the balance between physical and psychological trauma right and uses his fast-speech patterns to power the story along.

There are only two ways 'Buried' can end, and you'll either be satisfied or disappointed with Cortés' choice. Both camps should agree, however, that the crick in his neck has done wonders for Reynolds' CV.

Harry Guerin