Blu-ray Review: Brainstorm

Sadly, the 1983 sci-fi film Brainstorm is best known as Natalie Wood’s last film. But underneath the tragedy surrounding the film is an interesting, thought-provoking sci-fi thriller.

Michael Brace (Christopher Walken) and Lillian Reynolds (Louise Fletcher) are two scientists who have developed a device that records human experience so that they might be played for someone else to experience themselves. Brace’s ex-wife, Karen (Woods) helps design the device to be more commercially viable.

Things take a turn when the government intervenes and starts pushing their own agenda. One of their co-workers uses the machine to experience a couple having sex and he loops the orgasm portion of the tape almost killing himself showing that this device is dangerous.

Later Lillian dies of a heart attack, but not before turning on the recording device. Michael watches the video but almost dies himself. Before he can finish the tape he is locked out by the government. Determined to finish the experience on the tape he plans to break in and see it. Also, somewhere along the line Michael and Karen reconnect.

As is typical for sci-fi films of the late ’70s/early ’80s, this is a slow-building film that takes its time to develop its characters and story. Also, with the complicated experience recording device, the film takes its time to make sure the audience gets how this works.

One of the more interesting aspects of Brainstorm is how it is shot. Most the film was shot in regular 35mm. However all of the scenes where captured experiences are shown wwere shot in 70mm. This creates a constantly changing aspect ratio as it cuts back and forth between the two.

Originally director Douglas Trumbull wanted to shoot the film at 60 frames per second as well as in 70mm, but MGM back out of the idea as it would cost to much to convert theaters to be able to project it. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Peter Jackson is going through the same thing right now this his Hobbit film.

It’s also worth noting that Trumbull worked on the special photographic effects in 2001: A Space Odyssey, which comes very apparent in the final scenes of Brainstorm.

Trumbull created a visually unique cinematic experience that is sure to entertain sci-fi fans of all kinds and even reach out to people not generally interested in the genre.


This film is presented in 2.40:1 and 1.78:1 widescreen and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. This is a great, unique looking film and it looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The sound is a little extreme at times and I found myself turning it down and turning it up from scene to scene.

The only extra included is the Trailer in HD.

Sadly, Trumbull only directed two feature films. However, as a master of special photographic effects, he put his artistic touch on such films as 2001, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picure and Blade Runner as well as being the visual effects consultant for The Tree Of Life. Yes, Brainstorm has a lot going for it visually, but underneath that is also a very interesting and engaging story with some great performances from Walken and Woods.

Warner Bros. presents Brainstorm. Directed by: Douglas Trumbull. Starring: Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson. Running time: 106 minutes. Rating: PG. Released: July 10, 2012. Available at