The Pitch: Saving Driver Ryan.
The Review: Ryan Reynolds is actually a pretty talented comic actor, but over the years he’s struggled to find material to best fit his easy-going style. Probably best known for his wisecracking roles in movies like Blade: Trinity or his similar TV work, his profile may be about to get much bigger with the two comic book franchises he’s got in the works – so if you wanted to take someone, possibly the most unlikely someone you could, and stick them in a coffin buried underground and basically torture them for an hour and a half, then Reynolds feels like the ideal candidate.
Normally at about this point in a review I might embark on a brief summation of the plot for those unfamiliar with the story, so here goes. It’s Ryan Reynolds. He’s a contracted truck driver working in Iraq. He’s been kidnapped and buried alive in a coffin. He’s got a mobile phone, and has to get out before he runs out of signal or air, or both. That’s it. It’s a concept so high it should have little flashing warning lights to ward off aeroplanes, and it’s the kind of thing that Hitchcock in his heyday would have been proud of, for several reasons. While the great man was fond of a high concept himself, it wasn’t just their mere nature that fascinated him, but the possibilities that they could lend themselves to.
You might think that just one man and the inside of a coffin would get a little dull after a while, but director Rodrigo Cortes has worked out all his angles, and there’s not an inch of the coffin left unexplored over the course of the running time, including a few slightly artificial long shots that help to reinforce the isolation, but we are trapped down there for the duration in an admirable display of commitment to the concept, and Cortes uses that fact to start ratcheting the tension up to unbearable levels. We do hear other people, including the unmistakeable tones of Steven Tobolowsky, as well as Robert Patterson and Samantha Mathis among others, as Reynolds’ Paul Conroy attempts to attract a rescue before it’s too late, but visually the only face we see is that of Reynolds.
He steps up manfully to the challenge, throwing his emotions at the screen and allowing you to share in the terror of his character’s plight. The immersive nature of the cinematography will help you to feel trapped with him, and as his situation worsens, the movie exerts a vice-like grip around your nerves. I wouldn’t confess to being too much of a claustrophobic, but by the end I was glad to see the wide open spaces outside the cinema, as what Cortes and Reynolds have achieved is incredibly effective. Taut, suspenseful and well structured, you even let it get away with the odd bit of cheekiness (one other thing ends up in the box at one point, which in other hands might have stretched disbelief, but you’re happy to let them run with it), and somehow from the confines of this tiny prison it manages to work in social and political commentary among all the tension in a way that never feels forced and only enhances. It will make you amazed at what Reynolds is actually capable of given the right material, but it will also leave you clamouring to see what Cortes can do next.
Why see it at the cinema: It’s almost a dare to see if you can cope with it. If you’re especially claustrophobic, you may wish to sit close to the exit, just in case.
The Score: 9/10