Who would have guessed that the wise-cracking, Canadian dude from 'Fifteen' and 'Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place' would become one of the hottest tickets in Hollywood? I sure as hell didn't. But since his sitcom days, Ryan Reynolds has been a man on fire -- starring in everything from rom-coms to comic book fantasies (in both DC and Marvel Universes), and the actor was even chosen by People Magazine last year as their Sexiest Man Alive.
Yep, apparently Ryan Reynolds is a fox. So I guess it makes sense then in a roundabout Seussian kind of way that we now get Ryan Reynolds in a box, who surprises yet again with the dramatic performance of his career in the indie thriller, 'Buried' -- one of the best films of 2010.
Reynolds stars as Paul Conroy, an American truck driver working under contract in Iraq. Right after the opening credits, Paul awakens in a dark and unfamiliar place. Bound, beaten, and bloody, Paul struggles until he's able to reach his lighter, where he quickly sees that these are the very least of his problems. Confined to a cramped wooden prison, armed with only a cell phone with poor reception, Paul is about to engage in the fight for his life. Somewhere out in the middle of the desert beneath the blistering hot sun, Paul has been buried alive.
To say any more about the plot would only ruin the experience of this amazing little feat of a film. I first heard about 'Buried' when I was sent the press release details for the Blu-ray for this site, and after reading the synopsis I was intrigued, although apprehensive. The movie's concept seemed interesting to me, but to be honest I was expecting another 'Phone Booth,' where the premise starts out promising enough, then the film would just devolve into a contrived and farfetched mess.
Fortunately, Joel Schumacher (or any other Hollywood hack for that matter), had absolutely nothing to do with this production. Instead, 'Buried' was helmed by acclaimed Spanish filmmaker Rodrigo Cortés ('Yul'), a man who obviously knows that bigger isn't necessarily better. Cortés directs with a keen eye and restrained hand, and never strays from his meticulous and methodical pacing. I hate using the term, but 'Buried' really is one of those deceptively simple slow burns crafted with Hitchcockian precision.
It is Reynolds, though, who impresses the most by delivering a truly mesmerizing performance. I won't deny that there isn't much character development in 'Buried,' at least not at first anyway, but there really doesn't need to be. The problem with Colin Farrell's Stu in 'Phone Booth' is that he's such an unlikable prick right from the start that I just wanted the sniper to shoot the fucker and be done with it. But here, even though we know less about Conroy, Reynolds plays the everyman so convincingly that it's much easier to relate. As he comes face to face with panic, despair, frustration, and desperation, we can put ourselves in his shoes and feel every one of his heartfelt and gripping emotions. Plus even though he leaves his goofball shtick far behind and his dire situation is certainly no laughing matter, Reynolds finds a way to make us chuckle a few times while still offering what feels like a normal reaction from his character.
The minimalist approach presented in 'Buried' may not appeal to all audiences, but to me the film is an impeccably designed, white-knuckle study of one man's test of endurance and desperate struggle for survival. Powerful, emotional, and incredibly tense, 'Buried' is the rare claustrophobic treat that immediately pulls viewers to the edge of their seats and leaves them gasping for air by the time the end credits roll.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Lionsgate uncovers 'Buried' in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack housed inside a standard blue keepcase. The Blu-ray is a single-layered BD-25 disc, and like a few Lionsgate titles lately, the java screen takes a dreadfully long time to load. There are trailers for four movies, Lionsgate Blu-ray, and Epix before finally getting to the menu. The disc is listed as Region A.
'Buried' is a dark film, which isn't surprising considering the movie is set inside a tight enclosed space with very little light. Fortunately, the 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 (2.35:1 aspect ratio) encode on this Blu-ray still does an effective job in delivering a slick and claustrophobic experience.
The majority of the picture is consumed by blackness, and for the most part it remains richly deep and inky. Occasionally the darkened areas can be so vast and overpowering that the swells give off more of a dark brownish appearance. Shadow delineation is affected somewhat and there is a bit of crushing in the presentation.
The only real color 'Buried' has comes from the light sources Conroy finds inside the coffin, and I have to admit it's an interesting creative touch. The Zippo lighter and the flashlight emit varying shades of yellows and oranges; the Blackberry shines a bright and clean beam of white with a soft tint of blue; while the glow sticks cast a vibrant and attractive lime green. Even though this makes judging flesh tones rather impossible, nothing about them seems off. Fine detailing is also quite revealing, offering pleasing textures in the wood planks and facial close-ups. Stubble and skin pores are rendered nicely, and the definition of sand and dirt sticking to droplets of blood and beads of sweat is impressive.
A very thin layer of grain is consistent throughout and the picture is never plagued by unsightly noise anomalies. DNR and edge enhancement don't seem to be much of an issue, either, though I did notice the odd artifact during the movie. Not a whole lot, mind you, just the odd one here and there visible in the darkest patches of the screen.
On the whole, 'Buried' gets down and dirty with a solid and stable video transfer.
I half expected 'Buried' to have a limited sound design, but that isn't the case here at all. Lionsgate's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio presentation is thoroughly engaging, and one that creates a terrific sense of dread and uneasiness.
The soundtrack hits a positive note immediately as the eerie score during the opening credits sequence is smooth, crisp, and fills the room with ease. The sound effects make full use of the surround channels and really heighten the atmosphere. Boards creak and thump as Conroy shifts his weight around the coffin and sand can even be heard sifting in from above.
Although 'Buried' isn't the kind of film littered with roaring engines and bombastic explosions, Cortés still manages to find clever ways to put the LFE to work. In fact, bass activity is fairly responsive, delivering deep low-ends and more than a few punchy moments with considerable weight and heft.
Reynolds' dialogue and those of his phone encounters come through precise, intelligible, and set at appropriate levels, while directionality is notably limber here as well.
There isn't really much else to say except 'Buried' sounds amazing for such a boxed-in experience.
The Blu-ray also includes an alternate French Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as optional English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles.
Aside from the bonus DVD copy of the film, supplements are rather slim on this particular release.
Few thrillers are able to think outside the box anymore, but 'Buried' actually manages to do so entirely from within one. The film is masterfully directed, perfectly paced, and Ryan Reynolds delivers a tour de force performance. This Blu-ray boasts solid video and stellar audio, but there are slim pickings when it comes to supplements. That doesn't matter, though, 'Buried' is still one of the best movies of 2010, and comes highly recommended.