Buried (2010)
By: Rip on March 29, 2011  | 
Icon | Region 4, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DTS 5.1 | 91 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Rodrigo CortÚs
Starring: Ryan Reynolds
Screenplay: Chris Sparling
Country: Spain / USA
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Buried stars the versatile Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy, a contract truck driver working in Iraq. After his convoy is attacked, killing everyone in the vehicle but him, the insurgents choose to bury Paul alive in a wooden box at an unknown location, rather than take him hostage. He is given a mobile phone and a Zippo lighter, and is given the task of arranging a 5 million dollar ransom, after which his location will be revealed. We, the audience, aren't privy to any of this, but learn it from the various conversations that Paul has on the cellphone that he finds inside the coffin he wakes up in at the film's outset. By this point, we the audience can identify with Paul's desparation, given that being buried alive would have to be the most universal of all fears. Being that Paul is in a rectangular box that is larger than a regular coffin, he has a little more air than he otherwise would have. But eventually, it'll still run out, just like the gas in the Zippo and the battery in the mobile phone. Who does he call first? What happens if he's put on hold? Of course, he is put on hold and this is just one of the many unbearable frustrations Paul experiences whilst his air, lighter fluid and phone battery are slowly used up. And then his kidnappers start calling... This all adds up to one of the most nail-biting thrillers I've seen in some time.

The biggest feat this film pulls off is maintaining the audience's interest for the whole 90 plus minute runtime. Why? Because the entire film takes place inside a box. Not once do we ever see anything outside above. There are no shots of the people Paul telephones, no shots of his kidnappers, no flashbacks to how he got where is... nothing. We are in the box with Paul the whole time. And it's a great credit to director Rodrigo Cortes and writer Chris Sparling that this all actually works. As can be seen in the accompanying 'making-of' on this DVD, actor Ryan Reynolds really is laying down in a box the entire time, but Cortes and his cinematographer have cleverly constructed the coffin with removable sides and top so that they can get the camera inside to show us every conceivable angle possible. Rather paradoxically, the use of 2:35 panoramic wide-screen (sadly not present on this disc, but more on that later) actually increases the feeling of claustrophobia instead of giving us the scope that it otherwise normally would. Obviously, there is very little light in this movie, save for what emits from Paul's Zippo and the mobile phone he uses, so it all works best when viewed with the lights switched off.

What really is pivotal here though and anchors the film all the way, is the career defining performance of Ryan Reynolds. Always a relaxed, confident actor who is more often cast in wisecracking action men roles or generally more lighthearted fare, in Buried Reynolds runs the gamut of emotion, ranging from frustration and weeping depair, to moving moments of melancholy. And not once does he ever appear to be acting. We feel for him all the way. Director Cortes has said that Reynolds went through hell during the making of the film, especially given that he really was confined to a small space for the entire shoot, so his palpable and affecting performance comes as no surprise. Given the generally high praise the film received, it's rather surprising that Reynolds didn't snare an Oscar nomination. He's that good.

Buried was financed and shot in Rodrigo Cortes' native Spain, and is very obviously not a Hollywood film, in spite of Ryan Reynold's presence. They don't make movies like this in Tinseltown and this one's all the better for it.
Hard to gauge the visual quality of this one, given that film is in almost complete darkness the entire time. What light and colour there is comes from the cellphone, Zippo lighter and glowstick that the character has in the coffin. But in the dim light given off by these implements, there is much detail to be seen and the whole picture has a slight grainy quality which I think would have been the director's intention, given the style and subject matter of the film. But... here's where this digital video disc loses big points; as mentioned earlier, there was an aesthetic choice made by director Cortes to frame this movie at 2.35:1 panoramic wide-screen and what distributor Icon Entertainment have served us up with here is a cropped 1:77-1:78 transfer that cramps the film more than the character in the coffin. Now, Icon have been a regular offender of this appalling practice (though it must be said, not always), and after some investigation, it would seem that this is not really the fault of the local arm of the company, but its British counterpart, whom I suspect are sometimes palming off television prints to us here in R4. Apparently, the R2 releases are identical, in both the DVD and the Blu Ray. Personally, when watching the film, I could see that Ryan Reynolds face was often cut off, but this may not bother some viewers. But when you watch the accompanying extra features, you'll see the snippets from the movie in its correct aspect ration and you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll have to go R1 if you wish to see this film as its maker intended.
We get DTS 5.1, but oddly, no straight Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Instead, there's a 2.0 surround option, which still sounds very big, but obviously not anything like the DTS job.The surrounds are used to maximum effect here, what with outside noise like planes flying overhead, voices and general ambient sounds. You'll be looking over your shoulder, I can assure you. Bass response is huge too, as you'll find out when the bombs start dropping.
Extra Features
A very fascinating 17 minute 'making-of', which covers the ingenious shooting methods as employed by director Rodrigo Cortes and cinematographer Eduard Grau. Whilst not long in runtime, it's nevertheless consistently interesting and covers a lot of ground. And you'll really get an idea what poor ol' Ryan Reynolds had to go through. This is one time where the actor's adage of 'suffering for one's art' rings surely true. Also included is a 14 minute interview with Rodrigo Cortes (who has a very macabre sense of humour when it comes to how sees his film!), as well as the movie's trailer.
The Verdict
Right from the (dare I say) 'Hitchcockian' opening title graphics and Bernard Herrmann-like score, you know you're in for something special with Buried. Harrowing and intense, with a bravura performance from Ryan Reynolds, it'll take a few days before you can get this one out of your head. And therefore, it comes highly recommended.
Movie Score
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