It takes a snake to kill the tension in Buried. Weird, considering the other gaping plot holes to consider, but this is Hollywood. Paul (Ryan Reynolds) is buried alive somewhere in Iraq, his location unclear and people he’s called over the cell phone inside his casket no help. He falls asleep, mostly out of panic.
The screen goes black, as it does quite often considering the conditions, cutting the audience off from Paul’s small world. When we come back, there’s a snake in the casket, crawling on Paul’s leg. It’s mind blowing because there’s no sense of where the snake came from, and this is deep into the movie. Instead of paying attention to the enormity of the situation, you’re begging for an answer because it breaks the movie wide open. When you find out where, it’s all too late, the scene is botched, and interest has waned.
Credit then to director Rodrigo Cortes for pulling the audience back in via frustration, anger, and panicked drama. Paul’s efforts to escape his potential tomb are few, and no one seems to help. Part of that falls back on Paul, making poor decisions with the cell phone, lighter, flask, and glow stick provided to him. Consider them plot holes, stupid character traits, or whatever else you can think of; in reality, they’re choices made under duress, a way to get the audience yelling at the screen to save this character.
It’s a human reaction, even if that person is simply an image on a TV screen. There’s that drive to survive, this despite knowing so little about this trapped truck driver. He was ambushed after one of the supply trucks hit an IED, Paul blacking out in the process, and then shoved into a wooden box. Buried does almost everything right in this regard, generating that deep tension as he makes the wrong decisions and frustration as people on the other end of the line are more concerned with politics and lawyers than helping him.
For a movie shot inside a casket with almost no light, Buried keeps thing interesting visually, a number of unique views, finding needs for Paul to move around ever so slightly, and swapping out the lighting of a lighter for something else. It’s not a static film, even if the situation dictates that it should be. Story elements are as enticing as the style, an impressive little film and thriller with an ending that throws everything you just watched in a new perspective.
If your black levels were ever a concern for your HDTV, this movie will destroy them. The blacks aren’t bad; in fact, they’re about perfect. Once out of the credits, the screen stays completely dark for about 45 seconds, and right there you’ll know if your set is capable. Hopefully it is, because this is a dark, rich, bold bit of lighting design, and depth to those dim areas of the screen are absolutely essential.
If not, you’ll still be treated to a great AVC encode from Lionsgate, a routinely thick grain structure forcing it to work hard to keep the image in check. While slightly harsh at times, it’s not a distraction, adding to the intensity, not taking away from it.
Almost the entirety of this one is shot in close-up, meaning that definite, solid light source is crucial in keeping the facial detail firm. It typically does too, allowing for various focal tricks and the overwhelming light of the cell phone to bloom. As the tension grows, the heat increases. Reynolds begins sweating profusely, adding to the level of available detail, going along with a dirt-filled face caused by the conditions.
Flesh tones are sort of tricky since there are none really. Each of the lighting sources, ranging from orange, blue, red, and green, take over the entirety of the image. Those are your palettes, occasionally mixing, but never moving from those predetermined choices. Each of them are bold and fairly rich, not overly saturated yet still pleasing to the eye. The heft of the light sources, as mentioned above, does create some blooming to blot out the detail, all part of the visual design.
There’s typically not a lot going on with this DTS-HD 7.1 effort, although it has flashes of brilliance. The height comes as some explosions rattle the ground above Paul, the powerful, deep, awesome bass that tells what’s going on remarkable. Sand begins to pour in, filling not only the casket but the room. That’s where the sound design finally shows what it’s fully capable of, the slight creaking of the wood phenomenal as boards individually erupt in the proper channel.
Ramping up also is the score, distant for most of the feature until the panic reaches the point of terrifying. Like all of the other elements, it’s perfectly clear, hitting each channel effectively. There are other moments of notes, some voices swirling around as Paul begins to lose faith in the rescue attempt at 1:06:00, the result of that being an increasingly powerful exaggerated heartbeat that reverbs in the sub.
Everything else is dialogue, the cell phone conversations accurate to, well, a cell phone. Paul’s words have a mild echo considering the circumstances, a natural fit to the design.
Unearthing Buried is your sole feature, an 18-minute making of that while brief, still reveals how it was all done. Trailers are the only other option on the disc, unless you consider LG Live’s weather reports extras.