Cast & Crew
John Forbes Nash Jr.
Produced by Brain Grazer, Todd Hallowell, Ron Howard
and Karen Kehela; Directed by Ron Howard; Screenwritten
by Akiva Goldsman; based on the novel by Sylvia Nasar
Drama (US); Rated PG-13 for mild language;
Running Time - 135 Minutes
Domestic Release Date
January 4, 2002
by DAVID KEYES
Modest, reticent, offbeat and underestimated math genius
John Nash is told at the start of "A Beautiful Mind"
by an instructor at Princeton that he, or any one of his
fellow classmates, could very well be the next Isaac Newton
or Albert Einstein. Immediately we see the groundwork layed
for a standard feel-good character study, saturated with
promises of cheep and shameless sentiment and dripping with
the obvious intent on manipulating audiences right down
to the last provoked tear. Our anticipation, which has been
built drastically in the recent weeks thanks to an ominous
yet intriguing promotional campaign, suddenly dies down,
and as we wait in the dark theater for the picture to throw
out its first emotional outburst, we ache with displeasure.
But a peculiar thing happens only a few short minutes after
our senses feel desensitized. We actually being to admire
the movie. Our high expectations are renewed. And we slowly
but surely start to anchor our faith and admiration in the
main character, who is no more a faux Hollywood creation
than Jar Jar Binx is a masterful special effects invention.
In fact, this John Nash character is perhaps much more genuine
and intricate than the average young prodigy found in most
decent character studies; he bursts with charm, knowledge,
kindness and serene directness, but suffers the devastating
impact of an incurable modern illness, something that nearly
takes away everything he has ever worked for.
"A Beautiful Mind" is based on the true story
of one of the 20th centuries most revered and successful
mathematicians, a man who flourished wisdom and success
during his years as a student at a top-notch Ivy League
university, later instructed at MIT, nearly fell from grace
when he was diagnosed with schitzophrenia, and later was
awarded the Nobel Prize. The individual in question, Mr.
John Forbes Nash, is played here by Russell Crowe in perhaps
one of the finest acting achievements seen on screen in
the past two years. Nash, as the film tells us, was very
much the misunderstood type because his approach to learning
fit no conventional technique; he believed there was a scientific
explanation for everything, he though that games he couldn't
win at were somehow flawed, and time and time again, he
was spotted in his dorm room scratching numbers and complex
equations all over his window pains, trying incessantly
to solve or understand theories that not even the masters
of mathematics were able to do. As he tells his roommate
Charles (Paul Bettany) in an early scene, "my teacher
once said I was born with two helpings of brain and only
one helping of heart."
The level of intelligence Nash possessed was probably too
great to explain, but the film doesn't insist we delve into
his psyche to find out. Instead we merely see his mysterious
gift manifest in the numerous activities he is involved
with, one of them being the assignment to decode a Russian
secret message for the Pentagon, who fear that their military
may be close to dropping an atomic bomb on U.S. Soil. The
message is presented on large boards in random numbers,
and as Nash's eyes swiftly scan over them, he is able to
identify patterns that stand out. Similar affects occur
when he stares at newspaper headlines for a top secret assignment
for a length of time. And though he can't explain what his
mind does, the ability fuels his need to investigate, theorize
and solve the problems laid out before him.
Unfortunately, as those passions are fueled, so is his
increasing paranoia of being watched. Assigned as part of
a confidential research team, Nash quickly gets the feeling
that the government wants to silence him for the integral
information he knows about them, and as he catches mysterious
figures following him around, he collapses mentally in utter
panic. Later, at a local psychiatric ward, doctors diagnose
him with schitzophrenia, a mental disorder that causes hallucinations
and utter hysteria. His wife Alicia (Jennifer Connely) tries
to assure the doctor (Christopher Plummer) that John is
working on top secret information and isn't crazy, but how
can anyone be sure? If he is a schitzo, isn't is just possible
he imagined the whole thing?
The movie does an interesting trick with his illness, too;
instead of directly revealing the evidence to the audience,
we see the world and its manifestations through Nash's eyes,
leaving the audience to wonder whether what we've just witnessed
is either a figment of his mind or simply a good old government
cover-up. Eventually the truth surfaces, but not before
we have been dragged into a highly tense and ominous cluster
of scenes depicting the battle between reality and insanity.
The film's intensely deep investigation of this ominous
disease is so thorough that, at times, we feel as if we've
contracted it ourselves. But it isn't solely about the disease
itself, nor is it about the man's individual achievements.
Above all else, "A Beautiful Mind" is a story
of survival and perseverence.
movie was directed by Ron Howard, who, as I have made so
abundantly clear in the past, is not exactly one of my favorite
directors. Shockingly, the work he presents us with in "A
Beautiful Mind" is not just his own best, but some
of the most astounding of the year. The movie practically
bleeds with authenticity; every moment, every bit of the
crucial investigation is pulled off with passion and allure.
And what's more, Howard has the talent of Crowe at his disposal,
who now may very well be one of our greatest living actors
working in Hollywood. Combine that with equally fantastic
supporting performances and a script that seldom slacks
off, and "A Beautiful Mind" is one hell of a movie.
2001, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
Please e-mail the author here
if the above review contains any spelling or grammar mistakes.