Buried is an exciting cinematic experiment, if not exactly an entertaining movie.

The entire film takes place inside a small wooden coffin buried somewhere under the Iraq desert, where Ryan Reynolds, playing an American truck driver working under contract during the war, is being held for ransom by unknown kidnappers. Conveniently, he is supplied with a working cell phone as well as a number of different lighting devices, which Spanish director Cortés successfully relies on to keep his film visually interesting, given the limitations of his set.

Inventive but cruel, Buried is definitely not for the claustrophobic. Reynolds does a reasonable job, even if it's not exactly an Oscar-caliber performance, and the story captures the maddening process of dealing with bureaucracy. The numerous government stooges whom Reynolds telephones for help are not what one would call cooperative.

My big problem with the film is that it's one of those experiences where you are made to ask yourself, "What would I do in this situation?" – and you realize that you are smarter than the protagonist. I always get let down by those movies. I want the character to be more resourceful than I am, because that keeps the story one step ahead of me. But Reynolds's poor sap is high-strung and screamy, with a flair for wasting his time, oxygen, and cell phone power instead of taking a few moments to figure out his best course of action, given his tools. (The story gives his behavior an excuse: he has been clinically diagnosed with anxiety.) It's hard to sympathize.

Buried isn't a miss, but watch it only if you are keen on seeing what a talented director can accomplish with such a tiny setting and only one onscreen actor.