The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) — Special effects can be a tricky thing.  Far too often they’re used not to further a story but to take the place of a story.  But David Fincher knows better.  His previous films like Fight Club and Panic Room are all loaded with effects but they never are showy at the expense of telling a real story and again he used cutting-edge techniques to tell a gripping story.  It’s not the best movie he’s made (surely Seven, Fight Club, or Zodiac deserves that distinction), but it may be the best directed.  I like almost everything about this film.  My only real gripe is that Benjamin, the central character, seems more like a supporting player in his own life story.  Everything happening around him is what makes the movie great while he just sort of drifts through on his way from the grave to the cradle, so to speak.  The supporting cast is great, especially Taraji P. Henson as a woman who is pretty much the embodiment of love.  Reliable Brit character actors Jason Flemyng and Jared Harris turn in great performances as do American Mahershalalhashbaz Ali, Canadian Elias Koteas, and Scot Tilda Swinton [very international cast here…].  Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are fine in the leads but watching their physical transformations from old to young and young to old (respectively) and the amazing effects work used to do that is the main thing.  The story is absorbing and transports you to a world that, while sharing our own history of wars and hurricanes, feels like a place where magical backwards-aging dudes can actually exist.  While the leads may not be the most dynamic characters you care at them and are moved by the story.  The film is in some ways a meditation on death and like anything concerning death ends up being a sort of affirmation of life.  More relevant to film geeks it is David Fincher demonstrating the ever-amazing mastery of his craft.

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