The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Blu-ray)

"I was born under unusual circumstances…" — Benjamin Button

Based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is the story of Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt), who's born the size of a newborn, but with all the attributes of a man in his 80s—poor hearing, arthritis, and wrinkles. His mother (Joyanna Sayler) dies during childbirth, and his father (Jason Flemyng), unwilling to raise the abomination on his own, abandons the infant on the steps of a New Orleans retirement home, where Benjamin begins his most unusual life of growing younger as time passes.

This is a movie about experiencing life, but from a different point of view. As an old man, Benjamin is just like any other child discovering the world, but people treat him differently due to his seemingly advanced age. At 17—or 63, depending on how you look at it—Benjamin leaves home to find his place in the world, and his life eventually leads him back to Daisy (Cate Blanchett), a woman he met as a child, but who is now a full-grown woman. Can the two be happy together given Benjamin's unique aging characteristics?

Shot almost entirely with digital cameras, the 1080p transfer is flawless. Black levels are inky and deep, delivering drop-dead gorgeous shadow detail and a nearly three-dimensional image. Resolution is amazing and sharp as a tack without any post-processing edge enhancement or digital manipulation. Interior lighting is warm and inviting, especially in the New Orleans retirement home, and the exterior shots of the city look like a Discovery Channel documentary in the vivid details that come to life. The CGI ranges from very good (Brad Pitt's aging process) to poor (Cate Blanchett's porcelain face when depicting her as a 20-year-old dancer). Regardless, the film looks extraordinary on Blu-ray.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is just as impressive. As a drama, the majority of the film contains a lot of dialog, which is always intelligible, but it's in the action scenes where the track comes to life. The New Orleans celebration of the ending of World War I is filled with surround activity as people party in the streets, placing you right in the middle of the merriment. The LFE channel gets quite a workout with the onslaught of hurricane Katrina and a brief naval battle during World War II.

The two-disc set includes ample bonus material, beginning with the feature film on disc one with an optional director's commentary from David Fincher. Disc two includes a nearly three-hour documentary about all the different facets of the production, such as the concept, casting, the challenges of aging Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, the visual effects, sound design, and music. Rounding things out is a promotional piece from the opening of the film, production photographs, and two theatrical trailers.

There's a lot to like about this movie, but I have one criticism—it's too damn long. At nearly three hours, Fincher tests the fortitude of the audience, and I thought there was a lot of extraneous information about Benjamin's life that could have been left out to improve the pacing. Nevertheless, the exceptional presentation is worth the price of admission, and Brad Pitt delivers one of his finest performances.

Release Date: May 5, 2009
Studio: Paramount/Criterion Collection

Movie: 6/10
Picture: 10/10
Sound: 10/10

Review System

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics