There are many things in the world of motion pictures that I simply don’t understand. Why Donnie Darko deserved a sequel. How Rambo never got killed. Why the nation never went blind after seeing Kathy Bates nude with Jack Nicholson. But chief among the mysteries is how The Curious Case of Benjamin Button failed to win Best Motion Picture in a year when the Oscar went to the melodramatic and entirely over-acted story of Slumdog Millionaire.
If there were any doubts about the excellence of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Paramount’s release of the film via Criterion Collection Blu-ray will erase them all. From top to bottom, audio to video, movie to bonus features, this two-disc Blu-ray set is an absolute must-own for anyone who enjoys emotional storytelling and A/V excellence.
Not unlike Tim Burton’s Big Fish, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button explores the complexities of growth and family using a fictional vehicle that at times feels more real than so-called realistic dramas. Without spoiling much of the plot, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells the story of a man born with a disorder in which he ages in reverse. It’s been said that we all begin and end our lives in diapers; Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) epitomizes that saying, but in the reverse order. As he ages in number, Benjamin gets younger in body. As he loses his wrinkles and arthritis, he gains hair and the ability to walk. As he gains the responsibilities of a ‘normal’ adult (including marriage), he grows ever younger to the point of immaturity. And therein lies the compelling, excellent and well-told thesis of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: the human condition affects us all, no matter the era, place or circumstances.
Paramount treated the release of this excellent film with care and respect via a two-disc Criterion Collection set. Criterion Collection films, which don’t come out that often, are released in the highest possible technical quality. As such, the film appears on just one Blu-ray Disc packed to the gills with the highest-quality audio and video without regard for compression or space constraints. The bonus features are then included on a separate disc and predominantly focus on viewers’ appreciation of the artistic elements of the main motion picture.
Consequently, the 1080p video on this Blu-ray Disc is nigh flawless. It’s not uncommon to see dramas and comedies have good video, because there’s not as much risk for artifacting with little on-screen action, and the contrast is generally not as much of an issue. But ‘normal’ drama this is not, with a level of visual fidelity that few films short of Transformers have lived up to. The DTS-HD Master Audio is also fantastic, which isn’t something you often encounter in films that don’t appear to rely much on the surround channels. As a dialogue-heavy film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button relies heavily on the front and center channels, but the surrounds deliver a level of subtle immersion that envelops the viewer even more in the compelling world of our ill-fated title character.
The bonus supplements on the second disc complement the film well, The Energy RC-Micro home theater system delivered the sound for this review.with two features focusing on the aging (un-aging?) process of Brad Pitt. The first of these includes footage of the unique techniques behind the justifiably Oscar-winning visual effects and makeup department, while the second is a step-by-step examination of the motion-capture process used to make the ever-youthful Pitt look like an old man. The artistic exploration (remember, this is a Criterion Collection release) continues with bonus features about the film’s costumes and storyboards, and stills galleries for the costumes in addition to the standard cast and production photos.
The rest of disc two focuses on interviews, from sessions with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett to composer Alexandre Desplat. There’s also the requisite director fluffing piece for David Fincher, which is probably warranted considering the excellent work Fincher got out of the actors, but these pieces have never been at the top of my list for most-anticipated bonus features.
The film, on the other hand, was atop my most-anticipated Blu-ray releases of the spring, and Paramount delivered in a big, big way. Giving The Curious Case of Benjamin Button the Criterion treatment shows the respect the studio has for the film, not to mention the respect Paramount has for the sensibilities of its audience. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is nothing short of a modern masterpiece, and its release on Blu-ray reflects that quality in every regard.
Buy The Curious Case of Benjamin Button on Blu-ray at Amazon.com.
- Score: 9.5
— Jonas Allen