Buried (UK Blu-ray)
Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Rodrigo Cortés
Starring Ryan Reynolds
Distributed by Icon Home Entertainment
If there’s one movie that managed to completely blow me away last year, it was Rodrigo Cortés’ claustrophobic and tense Buried. Regular readers will likely already be familiar with my initial five-knife reaction here, but we all know that opinions can change over time – and what better reason to take another look at the film than the fact that the UK DVD and Blu-ray release has hit shelves?
In case you yourself have been living in a box for the past six months, Buried stars Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, a US contractor who, having been ambushed by insurgents in Iraq, wakes up in a coffin. With only a Blackberry, a pencil, and a few other choice supplies that have been placed there with him, Paul starts desperately reaching out for help from the authorities, his employer, family and anyone else that may have the power to get him out of there. With battery power and air gradually dwindling, Buried’s tagline is drilled home for every anxious minute of proceedings: Time is running out for Paul Conroy.
What makes Buried such an impressive piece of work is the fact that it manages to maintain a consistent pace and remains thoroughly gripping and absorbing the entire time despite being, quite literally, a one-man show set in a coffin. There are no external scenes, there are no other actors that we get to see (save for a quick video feed on the Blackberry on one occasion), and the limited space presents an incredible challenge for the cinematic medium. Director Cortés takes it all in his stride, however, pulling off some wonderful single-take sequences alongside multiple organic changes in lighting in order to prevent the whole affair becoming visually stagnant. One particular shot indicative of Conroy’s despair which sees the camera rise away from Reynolds, revealing a never ending prison of wooden panels, is breathtaking. Dramatically, Cortés also isn’t afraid to hit the audience with multiple punches. Conroy’s character is endearing and likable, and certainly doesn’t deserve the fate befallen him, which makes it all the more hard hitting when some serious curve-balls are thrown his way by those who should be making an effort to help him.
As mentioned in my original review, none of this would have come together quite so brilliantly if the choice of lead actor had failed to be as perfect as it is. Buried easily chronicles the performance of Ryan Reynolds’ career and proves once and for all that he is indeed a theatrical force to be reckoned with outside of the comedic pigeonholing in which he normally resides. The lack of awards recognition for what Reynolds managed to pull off here is, quite frankly, criminal.
So, it’s probably pretty obvious that my views of Buried haven’t changed. It’s certainly not an easy film to just sit down and watch on a whim, as you do need to be in a certain mood to immerse yourself in it, but it still remains the single best thriller of 2010 and a triumph of sheer storytelling excellence.
In terms of presentation, Icon Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray of Buried is incredibly well put forward. The picture is rock solid and almost bursts from the screen with detail. With so much of the film relying on darkness, the real big worry was whether the transfer would remain solid and deep enough to pull it off. Worry not, for it’s as good as it can be. Textures like Reynolds’ stubble, the wooden walls of the coffin, falling sand and dirt-caked skin make the Blu-ray a perfect reminder of just how big the difference between DVD and high-def material can be. Similarly, the audio is crisp, clean and perfectly balanced, offering an almost identical experience to a theatrical showing of the movie. Great stuff.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the special features, it doesn’t anywhere near approach the respect that the feature deserves. Included is a featurette entitled Unearthing Buried, which gives us a look at the shooting of the movie and the challenges faced. It’s a good watch, especially to see the coffin construction with removable walls, which would have to be actively moved away and back into place as the camera traveled through certain scenes. Finally, an interview with the director reveals a little more in-depth information about the type of activity we saw in the featurette. It’s an interesting insight to listen to, but pretty short at around 7 minutes.
A director’s commentary is mentioned on promotional materials for both the DVD and Blu-ray but was completely absent on the review disc. This is a huge shame, not to mention oversight, as if there’s any film that just screams for a director and lead actor commentary, it’s this one. Still, Buried is a movie that deserves a place in every film fan’s collection regardless of failures in the extras department.
5 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5