A Beautiful Mind (2-disc set) (15)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Commentary with director Ron Howard; Commentary with screenwriter Akiva Goldsman; Deleted scenes with optional commentary; Cast and crew biographies; Production notes.
Disc Two: A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer; Development of the screenplay; Meeting John Nash; Accepting the Nobel Prize in Economics; Casting Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly; The process of age progression; Storyboard comparisons; Creation of the special effects; Scoring the film; Inside A Beautiful Mind. Academy Awards; Theatrical trailer.

On first appearances, a true story about the life of a socially inept mathematics genius who later develops paranoid schizophrenia and resolves to fight back sounds like pretty tedious viewing.

But in the hands of Oscar-winner Russell Crowe, it becomes a thoroughly engrossing, even emotional, two hour-plus movie experience which has rightly landed its talented star with another Academy Award nomination.

Inspired by events in the life of John Forbes Nash Jr, and in part based on the biography A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar, the movie chronicles the years which led to Forbes' pioneering work in the field of game theory, his brief stint as a CIA code breaker, his battle against schizophrenia and his subsequent acceptance of the Nobel Prize in Economic Science in 1994.

But while credit must go to director Ron Howard for delivering an absorbing, even exceptional, movie, there remains a niggling doubt that this is not the whole story.

Indeed, further investigation into the real life of John Nash reveals an even more complex character than the one depicted on-screen, one which included involvements with other men, a secret mistress and a neglected, illegitimate son. None of this even warrants a mention.

A Beautiful Mind is in no way the definitive story of John Forbes Nash Jr and it is important to keep this in mind while viewing.

What it is, however, is a well-directed, strongly written, character-driven piece which has its eye firmly on gaining the keys to the Academy - it gained eight nominations recently.

Howard, up for best director, does well to keep things lively, throwing in elements of romance, conspiracy theory and triumph against the odds while in no way succumbing to the type of sickly sweet sentiment which dogged much of his earlier work (Far and Away, for example). He even manages a neat twist half way through proceedings, which really keeps viewers on their toes.

The film is also well-served by a stellar cast, who rise to the challenge presented by the difficult material. Of particular note is Jennifer Connelly's Oscar-nominated turn as Nash's devoted wife, as well as Paul Bettany, last seen as Geoff Chaucer in A Knight's Tale, again on terrific form as Nash's best friend.

The likes of Christopher Plummer, Ed Harris, Adam Goldberg and Josh Lucas round out an established cast, but there is no escaping the fact that this is Crowe's movie.

After career-making performances in LA Confidential, The Insider and Gladiator, the actor again re-defines himself and turns in a tour-de-force as the troubled genius. At times egotistical, at others remote, Crowe is never less than sympathetic and his attempts to overcome a disease still referred to as a 'cancer of the mind' make for terrific viewing.

He is phenomenal and his efforts help turn A Beautiful Mind into a flawed but beautiful movie.