Lionsgate // 2010 // 95 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // January 17th, 2011
170,000 square miles of desert. 90 minutes of oxygen. No way out.
"It's hot in here and I can't breathe!"
A man (Ryan Reynolds, Adventureland) finds himself trapped in a coffin, buried under ground.
Pretty spare description, right? Well, that's all I knew about Buried going into it, and I'm glad that's all I knew.
One of the downsides of living in the "information age" is that we're often robbed of surprises. This is particularly true with movies and TV shows. Reviewers tend toward TMI when discussing plots and twists, cliffhangers are often given away, and entire Web sites are devoted to spoilers. You have to wonder how a film like Psycho, with its shocks so married to its impact, would fare in the world of the Web.
Since Buried wasn't a high-profile film to begin with, it wasn't encumbered by the seemingly inescapable 'net buzz. I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could have found the whole plot neatly laid out, though in fairness, most of the reviews I've read have kept the details pretty sketchy.
Buried is a pure, visceral, damn-near perfect suspense film. It's not an action film disguised as a suspense film or a romantic comedy with car chases. It's a beautifully crafted, intense 95-minute ride, and I don't want to spoil one second of it by hashing over its plot points or its numerous twists.
The script, by Chris Sparling, received one of the first prizes of the 2010 awards season -- Best Original Screenplay from the National Board of Review. NBR is known for its occasional off-center choices -- Tim Burton won for his direction of Sweeney Todd over the Coen Brothers (No Country for Old Men) and PT Anderson (There Will Be Blood), for instance -- and in the year of Inception, The King's Speech, and Black Swan, the award for Buried seemed a little like a stunt. But Sparling's script is a marvel of construction, a paranoid-and-sweat rush of a logic puzzle that does exactly what it should and never goes slack. I don't know if it's "better" than the more prestigious films, but it's certainly a shot in the arm for a much maligned genre.
Rodrigo Cortés, in his U.S. directorial debut, has crafted a taut, highly charged thriller, one that actually warrants the overused and generally misused descriptor "Hitchcockian." With its Saul Bass-echoed title sequence, its pitch-perfect pacing, inventive camerawork and editing, challenging motif, suspense-heightening montages, and black humor and irony, Buried follows the Hitchcock playbook with admirable fidelity, closer to homage than knock-off. Cortés opens with a tense, chilling sequence and builds on it, each scene more imperative than the one that preceded it. While Ryan Reynolds offers up a compelling central performance as the trapped man, Buried succeeds largely on the strengths of the script and direction.
Buried received a limited release in the fall of 2010. While it did well overseas, its U.S. gross was a measly million bucks; evidently, this different-kind of horror film just couldn't lure audiences from the flashier fare that's generally released around Halloween. Lionsgate offers an impressive-looking Blu-ray for those who'd like to catch up.
Lionsgate has turned out a very nice disc, tech-wise. The 1080p image sports fine detail and contrast. The film was shot in low light, so necessarily, nothing "pops," but it's solid work. The lossless 7.1 audio track is strong and immersive, capturing subtle sounds and providing an excellent showcase for Victor Reyes' eerie and effective score.
Like too many Blu-rays I've seen lately, Buried comes up short in the extras department. Other than a trailer, all we get is an 18-minute featurette, "Unearthing Buried." It's not bad as far as these things go -- it moves quickly, has input from all the key players, is pretty informative -- but the single featurette business just seems a bit chintzy, particularly when we are once again promised a two-disc edition, and that second disc is merely a DVD copy (sans featurette).
While the meager supplemental offering is a definite negative, everything else about this Blu-ray is a plus. Lionsgate has done a fine job with the tech, and the film is terrific.
An intelligent, complex thriller, Buried deserved better than its anemic box office showing; hopefully, this Blu-ray will help the film find its audience.
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 7.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Copy
* Official Site