A tense South American thriller that is Die Hard in the jungle

The Burning is a slickly crafted thriller from South America. Argentinean director Pablo Fendrik’s deliberate film slowly uncoils into an explosive drama that grabs you and never lets go. Gael Garcia Bernal stars as an enigmatic mystery man that rescues a local woman from hunters. If you ever wondered what Die Hard in the jungle would resemble, this is the answer. The Burning’s deliberate pacing in its opening act might bore some but that character building is all preparation for a thrilling final act.

A mysterious man known as Kai (Gael Garcia Bernal – The Motorcycle Diaries) emerges from the Argentinean rainforest. He witnesses a poor farmer mercilessly slaughtered by mercenaries sent to take the farmer’s land. The mercenaries kidnap the farmer’s daughter, Vania (Alice Braga – City of God). Using his knowledge of the deep forest jungle, Kai sets off in pursuit attempting to rescue Vania from the men. Kai is the John McClane of this film, a good man thrust into a very bad situation as he squares off against a group of ruthless villains. His handy jungle skills enable him to stay one step ahead of hunters bent on killing anyone that gets in their way.

The Spanish-language production features dramatic performances from Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga.

The Burning is also known as Ardor in some markets. The Spanish-language production features dramatic performances from Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga. The tentative relationship between their characters propels much of the narrative. The jungle setting is a key element. Kai almost has a mystical connection to the jungle, a man at one with nature. His natural purity is held up against the greedy mercenaries, outsiders that want to pillage the landscape for monetary gain. This sets it apart from becoming a mindless action film.

This film is part Western, part mystical love story. It’s a tale of retribution that owes much to Die Hard in spirit, if not actual story. The opening act is purposely confusing, one that shrouds Kai in mystery as his background is slowly revealed. Gael Garcia Bernal isn’t given much dialogue to work with for the character. Kai is the strong, silent type as he fights off the mercenaries. Thankfully, Gael Garcia Bernal is up to the difficult acting challenge and makes the film hum with an undeniable charisma.

Deliberate pacing in its beginning may bore some viewers but The Burning is a strong thriller that tells a convincing story. It makes you care about its characters as they struggle to survive, wishing to be left alone in peace. Call it a South American Western with a modern twist.
Arrow Video has released The Burning as a Region B-locked Blu-ray in the UK.

Movie ★★★★☆

The Burning Blu-ray screen shot 10

The 100-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-25 with solid compression parameters. This Region B Blu-ray from British distributor Arrow Films makes the 2014 movie look super in 1080P. The movie has vivid, crisp video quality with outstanding depth and detail. It is presented in its intended 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This presentation has strong enough clarity in certain shots to mark it as possible demo material. There is an awesome moment when a tiger walks up to Kai. The resolution and sharpness of that scene is impeccable. It’s a striking videophile moment.

The digital cinematography possesses incredible sharpness and foreground detail in exterior shots. The jungle setting looks absolutely alive with its lush green hues and definition. Contrast and saturation are perfect in these exterior scenes. Like many digital productions, the picture quality does suffer a bit in the darker night shots. Black levels are the main victim, crushing some shadow delineation and obscuring detail.

Arrow Films delivers a Blu-ray with fairly razor-sharp visuals in pristine fashion.

Video ★★★★☆

The Burning receives an impressively discrete 5.1 Spanish DTS-HD MA audio presentation. It boasts strong dynamics and an atmospheric mix. As Kai retreats, subtle sounds of the jungle envelop the listener. The mix also features heavy subwoofer action and thump when necessary, from gunshots to bigger explosions. Most expect dense surround activity in these kind of films and The Burning delivers in spades.

English subtitles display in a white font.

Audio ★★★★☆

Arrow Films includes a couple of trailers for other releases preceding the main menu.

Human Capital Trailer (HD)

Stations of the Cross Trailer (HD)

Making of The Burning (16:16 in HD) – A tight production featurette in Spanish with English subtitles. It is an effective behind-the-scenes documentary interviewing the cast and director. We get glimpses at on-set footage and the actors are talkative about their experiences filming it. It’s a piece with little padding and covers a fair number of production tidbits. It actually helped me understand the film better.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.