Friday, 4 February 2011

DVD/Blu Ray Review: Buried

Fancy watching a 90 minute movie about a man trapped in a box? Possibly not and whilst Rodrigo Cortes’ ‘Buried’ got decent reviews when it arrived in the cinema last year, it didn’t strike me as the sort of movie I wanted to see in a darkened theatre with only the ever-present glow of everyone else’s mobile phones (damn you, British public!) to remind me I wasn’t stuck in a box too. I suppose it’s down to that primal fear we surely all have of premature burial, waking up in a coffin six feet under and with no way of getting out. Shiver... ‘Buried’ is easier to bear in the comfort of your own sitting room when you’ve got the option of making a cup of tea (if the mood takes you) when it all gets a bit tense and claustrophobic. Because, trust me, ‘Buried’ gets very tense and claustrophobic indeed...

Ryan Reynolds (soon to be seen as 'The Green Lantern' in the much-anticipated superhero flick) plays Paul Conroy, an undistinguished run-of-the-mill US contractor driving trucks in Iraq, who wakes up to find himself in a cramped wooden box buried somewhere in the desert with only an oxygen-consuming cigarette lighter and a half-charged mobile phone for company. How he got there, why he’s there and how the Hell he’s going to get out are what ‘Buried’ is all about and the ensuing ninety-odd minutes, spent entirely in the company of Conroy as his situation goes from bad to unbearable, are far more engrossing and buttock-clenching than you might imagine a movie which is basically a one-man show could possibly be.

Panic. That’s what I’d do. I bet you would too. So does Conroy, thrashing about, kicking and wailing and trying to force his way out of his box, despite the weight of the sand above bearing down upon his prison. But when he manages to regain his composure he sets about using the tools he has at his disposal to find out how he’s ended up in this situation and what he can do to free himself. It’s an extraordinarily bold concept for a 21st century movie where bang and flash rule and concept and performance take a distance back seat. It’s a credit both to Reynolds’ four-square characterisation of the everyman Conroy and Cortes focussed and unflinching direction that the film never flags, never drifts into sentimentality, never goes too far (although the sequence where something unwelcome squirms its way into the coffin does stretch credibility maybe just a bit too far and might have you shouting “Oh, hang on, this is too much...” at the screen) and, ultimately, never compromises the drama of its scenario. We’re with Conroy in that box right the way through the movie; there are no cheesy flashbacks, no cuts to his captor (a creepy, emotionless insurgent whose voice we hear over the telephone), no scenes of desperate rescuers battling to find him. It’s just Conroy, alone and scared, phoning random numbers – his family, the FBI, his employer (one of the iciest scenes in the movie has Conroy talking to someone at his workplace who is recording the conversation purely to clear his company for any insurance liability for his predicament) – in at attempt to make contact with someone – anyone – who can help him. Most terrifying of all is the voice of one would-be rescuer who sounds horribly like Simon Cowell – and that’s a voice you never want to hear, let alone when you’re trapped in a box and buried in the desert.

‘Buried’ becomes a genuinely heart-stopping race against time as an above-ground bombing raid designed to smoke out Conroy’s captor fractures the box and sand starts to pour in...Conroy has just minutes to make peace with himself but how close are his rescuers to finding and saving him? I’ll say no more...

‘Buried’ is brave and unusual film-making and it works because Cortes knows exactly how to ramp up the tension and, crucially, how to use and exploit the confines of the box to create a real sense of unease and disquiet. Reynolds’ performance is remarkable too, and it’s no surprise to learn, from the special features on the DVD, that he really suffered for his art. Through his interaction with the outside world via the mobile phone we get to learn a bit more about his life and the fact that he’s clearly just a man, an unexceptional, ordinary Joe Schmoe, not even a soldier involved in the ongoing conflict, makes his predicament even more real and even more horrifying. In some ways it’s not easy viewing, it’ll make you uncomfortable and uneasy. And when it’s over you might want to go outside for a bit just because you can. ‘Buried’ is bold, original film-making – and in an era of ongoing ‘Transformer’ and Jason Statham films, it’s the sort of movie we really need to be glad are still capable of being made.

THE DVD/BLU RAY: Blu Ray gives the movie a pinpoint clarity, essential when so much of the action takes place in the dark or in half-light. Added features are minimal but there’s a decent ‘making of’, and interview with the director and a commentary.

'Buried' is available on DVD/Blu Ray in the UK on 14th February 2011

No comments: