benbuttonbluStudio: Paramount
Year: 2008
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Run time: 110 minutes
Rating: PG-13

Audio: DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD50 DL
Region: A

The technical dazzle of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a truly astonishing thing to behold: this story of a man who ages backwards requires Brad Pitt to begin life as a tiny elderly man, then blossom into middle age, and finally, wisely, become young. How director David Fincher–with makeup artists, special-effects wizards, and body doubles–achieves this is one of the main sources of fascination in the early reels of the movie. The premise is loosely borrowed from an F. Scott Fitzgerald story (and bears an even stronger resemblance to Andrew Sean Greer’s novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli), with young/old Benjamin growing up in New Orleans, meeting the girl of his dreams (Cate Blanchett), and sharing a few blissful years with her until their different aging agendas send them in opposite directions. The love story takes over the second half of the picture, as Eric Roth’s script begins to resemble his work on Forrest Gump. This is too bad, because Benjamin’s early life is a wonderfully picaresque journey, especially a set of midnight liaisons with a Russian lady (Tilda Swinton) in an atmospheric hotel. Fincher observes all this with an entomologist’s eye, cool and exacting, which keeps the material from getting all gooey. Still, the Hurricane Katrina framing story feels put-on, and the movie lets Benjamin slide offscreen during its later stages–curious indeed.

Brad Pitt stars as Benjamin Button, a man who essentially ages backwards. When he is born, his own father attempts to drown him before a sudden change of heart has him leaving the swaddled and very whithered newborn upon the steps of an elderly home. There he is found by Queenie, played to motherly perfection by Taraji P. Henson. She sees past the deformity and oddity and loves him immediately.

Instead of dying, as a doctor predicted, Benjamin actually begins to age backwards. He appears as a very old man and slowly grows younger, but only in body. His mind seems to function as a typical human’s mind. He learns, and dreams and experiences. This basically sets up the magnificent story and from then on, you are taken from country to country, from one decade, to another and it is just superb to witness.

The acting is fantastic all around. Brad Pitt does an outstanding job, portraying both the old Benjamin as well as his younger counterpart. Cate Blanchett as his childhood friend/love interest is also a joy to watch. She can do no wrong, she is simply stunning. For such a short part, Tilda Swinton surely makes the most of it. Her tale and part with Benjamin in Russia is just stunning. There is also the talented Julia Ormond, who has a bigger part to play in the tale than we may realise at first.

The most impressive aspect of the film is the flawless visual effects. Just flawless. You have never seen aging/deaging done like this. There is a scene, towards the end, with Benjamin and Daisy (Blanchett) that had my jaw dropping. It was like looking back in time. I can’t describe how utterly impressed I was. The cinematography, the sad musical score, the costumes, just every little minute detail is just so impressive and authentic.
Movie Content: 9.5/10

Print/Audio Quality

The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. ‘Benjamin Button’ is a beautiful looking film that brings its unique style to high definition. There were many times throughout the film where my jaw dropped to the floor due to the beautiful visual effects. Black levels are deep and inky. Flesh tones were accurate. Details are some of the best that you will see in high definition. A film like ‘Benjamin Button’ that primarily focuses on the aging backwards of Brad Pitt as an elder to a child, I was impressed at the amount of details.
Print Quality: 9.5/10

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. This film is dialogue driven with the score peering into the soundfield. Dialogue was clean through the center channel with a nice degree of depth. I never had to raise or lower the volume to make out what was being said. The soundfield does get a few effects into play, but nothing major. The soundtrack takes advantage of the soundfield with audio also lightly pouring through the rears.
Audio Quality: 9/10

Special Features

Disc 1

  • “Audio Commentary from Director David Fincher”

Disc 2

  • “The Curious Birth Of Benjamin Button”
  • “Preface” [HD]
  • “Development and Pre-Production” [HD]
  • “Tech Scouts” [HD]
  • “Art Direction Gallery”
  • “Storyboard Gallery”
  • “Production: Parts 1 and 2” [HD]
  • “Costume Design” [HD]
  • “Costume Gallery”
  • “Visual Effects: Performance Capture” [HD]
  • “Visual Effects: Benjamin” [HD]
  • “Visual Effects: Youthenization” [HD]
  • “Visual Effects: The Chelsea” [HD]
  • “Visual Effects: The Simulated World” [HD]
  • “Sound Design” [HD]
  • “Desplat’s Instrumentarium” [HD]
  • “Premiere” [HD]
  • “Production Stills”
  • “Trailers” [HD] – 2 trailers
  • “Stills Galleries”
  • “Storyboards”
  • “Art Direction”
  • “Costumes”
  • “Production Stills”

All features are presented in standard and high definition where noted. This Criterion Collection is loaded with extras on the second disc with only the audio commentary on disc one. Fans of the film will not be disappointed here as there are hours of extras that will keep you quite busy.

Special Features: 10/10

The Final Word

‘Benjamin Button’ is a technical marvel that should not be missed by those that love film. The movie almost clocks in at a near three hours, but before you know it the time has passed since the story keeps the viewer engaged. On Blu-ray the video and audio are fantastic providing demo quality imagery considering how well the special effects are integrated into the film. There are a plethora of extras that will keep those interested in special features busy for a few hours. I highly recommend ‘Benjamin Button’ as a film well worth watching and even owning in your collection.
Overall Rating: 9/10

Review by: George Theofanopoulos