Blu-Review: Buried

Directed By Rodrigo Cortés
Starring Ryan Reynolds, José Luis García Pérez (Voice), Robert Paterson (Voice) and Stephen Toblowsky (Voice)



Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is a truck driver working as a private contractor in Iraq when his convoy is ambushed and he’s taken hostage. He wakes up in darkness, buried alive in a wooden coffin deep underground, with little more than a cell phone and a Zippo lighter for comfort. Unsure of who has captured him and to what end, he struggles to call for help on a cell phone with fleeting reception, but rescue might not arrive in time as batteries dwindle, air slowly runs out and sand starts to spill in.

If you need to hinge a one-man movie on a single actor, Ryan Reynolds is a pretty fantastic way to go. An immensely likeable, insanely charismatic and often woefully underused actor, here he delivers an absolute tour de force performance. A relatable everyman in a nightmarish situation, as Conroy dials desperately, calling employers, friends and family in an increasingly panicked plea for help, Reynolds channels his natural acting ability and penchant for snarky humour to fantastic effect. He laces the film with a streak of perfectly executed glib humour as he reaches frustratingly ignorant police call centre operators, horrifyingly bureaucratic higher-ups and disbelieving, ultimately useless friends (Paul’s send-off to an unhelpful friend of his wife is especially great), which provide welcome respites of dark comic relief but never douse the unrelenting claustrophobic tension. Each progressive moment is by turns incredibly funny, fist-wrenchingly tense and – during what might be Paul’s last conversations with family – utterly heartbreaking, none of which would be true if it weren’t for Reynolds at the emotional centre of it all.
.
.

buried1

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
As stunning as Reynolds is, Rodrigo Cortés deserves equal credit for making 90 minutes confined entirely to the inside of a box such an effective film experience. He uses the coffin’s tight confines to excellent effect to increase the unsettling claustrophobic atmosphere, but rather than rely on the same static shots throughout, his use of incredibly inventive camerawork (including a seemingly impossible 360 degree pan around Ryan in the box) and magician-like physical trickery instils a thrilling ‘How the heck did they do that?” curiosity towards the filmmaking process that’s increasingly rare in the CGI age. Chris Sparling’s script, too, is a vital and impressive component to the film’s impact; efficiently and effectively weaving the taut, twisty chills and thrills of a race-against-time suspense movie with a well-handled, bitter thread of political satire, Sparling’s screenplay is a tight and intelligent one.
.
.

buried2

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
Like many concept thrillers, though, especially those confined to single locations, Buried ultimately becomes stuck for ideas as it creeps to a close. The close confines and incredible performance keeps the tension festering away, but as the story itself pushes forward, the screenwriter’s plot limitations become increasingly apparent. The succession of screw-tightening hiccups that escalate the fear for Paul’s predicament (dropped calls, dwindling lights and the increasingly sinister motives of his kidnappers) cultivate an overwhelming tension, but moments like a reptile finding its way in the coffin, though effective, demand a little too much suspension of disbelief and feel like a slightly desperate grab to up the ante and pad the plot. The finale itself also feels slightly scattershot and not entirely satisfying, like the writer came up with a few ideas for endings in a brainstorming session and decided to cram them all in, while part of the ultimate pay-off is very heavy-handedly telegraphed early on, just to be sure the audience will get it.

All the same, the minor issues do little to dampen the intense and immensely impressive feat that Rodrigo Cortés and Ryan Reynolds accomplish. Nail-bitingly tense and skin-crawlingly claustrophobic, Buried will leave you nervously squirming in your seat through every minute and gasping for breath when the credits finally roll.
.
.

buried4

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.




The film’s often barely-lit, cramped location mean that the Blu-ray transfer is an inherently dark one, but fantastic looking all the same. Natural grain is evident, stunning detail is visible during the many close-up shots which linger on Reynolds’ stubbled jaw and blood-stained, dirt covered face, while close-up views of the coffin’s floor and walls offer a similarly alarming amount of crystal-clear detail in the grain of the wood or the film of dust and sand. The colour palette is visually pleasing, too; Buried packs a visual tone that alters depending on Paul’s light source, whether the green hue of glowsticks, the yellow flicker of a Zippo or the blue glow from a cell phone, all of which are handled nicely and give the film an attractive look.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track only enhances the movie experience, with an impressive detail and clarity and an immersive use of the surrounds that only compounds the film’s chokingly constricted atmosphere and delivers the film’s creepy, minimal score beautifully. A 2.0 Dolby Stereo track is also included, along with English subtitles for the hard of hearing.

The Blu-ray’s fun menu design deserves special notice, too: It’s a slight recreation of the film’s more low-key, visually creative posters, with a side view of the underground coffin and an animated video of Reynolds squirming inside as his lighter flickers and fades, enlightening the menu selections as it does.
.
.

buried3

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
Special Features

  • Unearthing Buried (17 min 24 sec, 1080i HD)
  • A somewhat brief look behind the scenes, though this feature has a short runtime, it cuts the usual EPK fat and skips straight to the meaty movie-making mechanics. I mentioned in the above review of the film that Cortés’ camera trickery is often like a magician confounding you with inventive trickery, and here he lifts the curtain as we get to see the seven different coffins constructed for the film and the staging of the more elaborate and impressive sequences, with interviews from the crew and Reynolds. It’s a short documentary, but a surprisingly enjoyable and enlightening one.

  • Interview with Director Rodrigo Cortés (14 min 35 sec, 1080i HD)
  • A fairly length chat with the man behind the camera, touching on what attracted him to the film, his inspirations, filming logistics and the like. Though Cortés’ thick Spanish accent and a lack of subtitles can leave some moments tough to decipher, he’s a passionate speaker and covers plenty of information.

  • Theatrical Trailer (1 min 10 sec, 1080p HD)

.
.

buried5

(Click image to enlarge)

.
.
Though sadly not an exhaustive set, Icon Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray boasts a surprisingly enlightening behind the scenes feature and a couple more decent, welcome extras to boot, along with a fantastic A/V treatment which provide a fantastic way to experience this taut, claustrophic thriller.

The Film:

The Blu-ray:




Buried is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from 14th February 2011.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.

(Note: The images above were captured and saved at a reduced quality, and though they give an idea of how the film looks, they aren’t intended to reflect the true quality of the Blu-ray image itself.)