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Buried Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack Review

Buried (2010) movie poster Buried

Theatrical Release: September 24, 2010 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Rodrigo Cortés / Writer: Chris Sparling

Cast: Ryan Reynolds (Paul Conroy), José Luis García Pérez (voice of Jabir), Robert Paterson (voice of Dan Brenner), Stephen Tobolowsky (voice of Alan Davenport), Samantha Mathis (voice of Linda Conroy), Ivana Miño (Pamela Lutti), Warner Loughlin (voices of Maryanne Conroy, Donna Mitchell, Rebecca Browning), Erik Palladino (voice of Special Agent Harris), Kali Rocha (voice of 911 Operator), Chris William Martin (voice of State Department Rep.)

Buy Buried Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack from Amazon.com

Buried faces a tall challenge: is it possible to make a full-length film staying with a man buried alive that viewers will be able to enjoy? The answer it uncovers is "yes." This thriller takes the rarely-employed single-setting story perhaps as far as it's ever gone and ends up much more than just a bold filmmaking exercise.

Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) is an American civilian contractor who has been working as a truck driver in Iraq. When the film opens, he finds himself inside in a plain, snug wooden casket.
Fortunately for both him and us, he has been buried with one of the greatest tools imaginable: a working cell phone. He also has a Zippo lighter, a pencil, a flask of alcohol, a temperamental flashlight, and some glow sticks. But that's it. The questions that immediately come to mind, like "Who has done this?" and "Where is he?", are mysteries for the time being. Paul tries to solve these and, against the odds, save his life by calling anyone he thinks might be able to get him answers and help post-haste.

As Paul makes frantic calls and receives some menacing ones, pieces of the puzzle start to come together. His apparent kidnapper is a family man looking to for a multi-million dollar ransom. The policy of the specialists back in the United States who deal with this sort of thing is to not ever negotiate with terrorists. Paul believes he is somewhere in the Iraqi desert and, since he can make phone calls, only a few feet deep. That is the starting point for the rescue mission, which is estimated to have the no more than 90 minutes of oxygen a sealed casket can supply.

Ryan Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, a kidnapped civilian contractor who finds himself buried alive in Iraq in the 2010 film "Buried." At least he's got a lighter and a cell phone.

Buried grips you early on and remains riveting for much of its runtime. Since it doesn't budge from its man-in-a-box premise (even avoiding the temptation of flashbacks), the movie spells out Paul's predicament gradually with the tasteful exposition of phone calls. The high concept renders the film fast moving while not actually moving anywhere at all geographically. Even so, 95 minutes feels a little too long as the film scurries to introduce inessential plot points in its second half. While that is happening, viewers are bound to start questioning the life of a Middle Eastern cell phone battery and Paul's window of survival.

Of course, after enough time has passed and it becomes clear that the movie won't significantly be straying from its enclosed locale, you might consider the two possible outcomes and which one is much more likely than the other. Such thinking may shed light on the limits of such narrow storytelling, but guessing the destination hardly precludes you from being hooked by the journey.

And it is a special, delightfully minimalist journey that Chris Sparling takes us on in his first major screenplay. While the writer deserves more credit than usual on such an ingeniously crafted drama, so too does Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés, whose one previous feature, 2007's Concursante (The Contestant), couldn't have suggested his ability to bring Sparling's ideas to life so strikingly.

Paul (Ryan Reynolds) is green from the glow of glow sticks he is fortunate enough to have been buried with.

One other person requires major acknowledgement here and that is obviously Ryan Reynolds, by far the more prominent of the mere two actors seen in the film. Because the concept is even more of a presence than the protagonist, carrying this film isn't the huge burden that stretches of Cast Away and I Am Legend were for, respectively, Tom Hanks and Will Smith.
Still, we can't overlook what Reynolds brings to this movie in his emotionally and physically grueling, lonesome lead role. He skillfully conveys desperation, frustration, and helplessness, selling the beyond nightmarish scenario as a believable Midwestern everyman (Paul is from Hastings, Michigan). This is the stuff that Saturn Awards are made of.

A far bigger awards landscape recently made news for Buried. Sparling is in hot water for sending out a letter to the writer's branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science highlighting some of the more impressive aspects of his achievement and encouraging votes in the Oscars' Original Screenplay category. The self-promotional missive is in clear violation of Academy rules. Besides being vain, it also may seem in vain because though well-reviewed and truly a creative accomplishment, Buried was beyond a longshot for an Oscar nod (even after winning the National Board of Review's original screenplay honor). Of course, some have speculated that, negative or not, publicity could aid the film's limited Academy Award prospects, even if a nomination comes at the price of Sparling giving up his ceremony seats (as The Hurt Locker's producer Nicolas Chartier had to last year, for a similarly-intentioned e-mail).

Next Tuesday, a week before the Oscar nominations are announced, Lionsgate brings Buried to home video. The release is noteworthy because it may very well be the first time a new movie is released exclusively in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack. The 2-disc combo arrives at standard DVD pricing but in Blu-ray packaging.

Buried Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.35:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: DTS-HD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: January 18, 2011
Two single-sided discs (1 BD-25 & 1 DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.95
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase


Boasting limited light and little color, Buried does not look like your average movie. It stands to reason that the grainy, gritty, high-contrast visuals of the DVD's 2.35:1 widescreen transfer are as intended. Whether the blacks should be dark grays, as they are here, is less certain. Nonetheless, picture quality is plenty satisfactory.

Reflecting the film, the effective Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is also unorthodox. The sound design lends weight to a cell phone's vibration and a lighter's flickering flame, things that would elsewhere garner no special notice. A late sequence in which pieces of phone dialogue from the preceding portions of the movie are replayed offers particularly memorable channel separation (helping to overlook the triteness of that tact). The mix goes a long way to enliven the film in ways that the maintained setting might not.

With the few bonus features relegated to the Blu-ray disc of the combo pack, the DVD's stylized main menu can forego an Extras listing.


The DVD has no bonus features to speak of. Its "Also from Lionsgate" listing runs the same six promos with which the disc opens, advertising Bug, Open Water, An American Haunting, The Last Exorcism, Fear Net HD, and EPIX.

The Blu-ray holds the featurette "Unearthing Buried: The Making of Buried" and original theatrical trailers, all of which could surely easily fit on the DVD, had a dual-layered disc (DVD-9) been used or even just the single-layered disc (DVD-5) filled to capacity.

The DVD's main menu gives us a stylized montage of imagery from the film.

The two discs stand on opposite sides of the standard, slim, ecologically-cut Blu-ray case.

"Can you hear me now?" Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds) sure hopes so. His life might just depend on it.


Those lamenting that Hollywood is out of ideas and content to repeat itself with sequels and remakes owe it to themselves to check out Buried. This Spanish/American production is not like anything else you've seen.
It literally writes itself into a corner (or rather, an 8-cornered box) and proceeds to make the most of it, arresting us with a single character on a cell phone in a coffin for an hour and a half. That claustrophobic design might not sound appealing to you and in fact it's maintained just a touch longer than it ought to be, but this remains a film you ought to see/experience.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray + DVD combo runs the risk of getting overlooked by customers still buying DVD (in whose sections the film won't appear). But it's not a bad way to release a movie, with DVD pricing but Blu-ray's compact packaging and two distinct discs instead of one of those flippers. From my DVD point-of-view, the only shortcoming is that the featurette and trailers merely adorn the Blu-ray disc; picture and sound are otherwise up to the format's standards, and that is enough to warrant a rental or purchase based on your viewing habits.

More on the Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed January 14, 2011.

Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2010 Lionsgate, Versus Entertainment, The Safran Company, Dark Trick Films,
and 2011 Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.