Russell Crowe's stunning performance...
Arthur J Pais
Don't be put off by a mathematician who fights schizophrenia. Or scared by some of the most detailed medical scenes seen in a major Hollywood flick. And don't think this is yet another preachy film about the triumph over adversity.
A Beautiful Mind is stimulating and engaging.
Based loosely on Sylvia Nasar's best-selling account of Princeton mathematician John Nash's successful fight against schizophrenia and his subsequent win of Nobel Prize, A Beautiful Mind offers a number of superb performances.
Russell Crowe, as Nash, offers one of the finest performances seen this year.
The filmmakers admit to have taken liberties with Nasar's book. Although both depictions acknowledge the part schizophrenia has played in Nash's life, you hardly see him as an arrogant and emotionally immature person as in the book. Nasar brought out the deep complexities of her subject in such a superb way that the book became an international bestseller. Here, those complexities are comparatively muted.
The film, like the book, depicts the support Nash receives from his wife in fighting his mental problems well. But many of the conflicts in their life as a couple are not shown.
The film starts in 1947, with Nash's arrival at Princeton from West Virginia. You will notice immediately that he is hardly any Ivy League material. The young Nash is deemed a misfit.
But he doesn't care. He refuses to attend classes or read the assigned books. He is into self-exploration, seeking 'a truly original idea'. He gets more inspiration -- so it looks for some time -- from pigeons and drinking at bars.
Despite the fear of his professors, Nash is forges ahead with his theories and gets a research job at MIT. His singular achievements bring him to the attention of the Defense Department where a top operative named William Parcher (Ed Harris) wants his help in breaking Russian codes. Parcher is convinced they are hidden in newspapers and magazines. Nash gets hooked to the project.
Nash's problems start when he suspects that faceless enemies are following him. When one of his contacts is exposed, the paranoia becomes more intense. He is even talks of space aliens. And he suspects irrationally that his best friend is a spy and is working against him.
The second part of the film deals with how Nash, with the help of his wife (Jennifer Connelly), overcomes his mental problems and becomes a celebrity on two levels -- academic and personal.
Crowe gives an award-worthy performance. While his good looks dominate many scenes, his face registers more than adequately the inner turmoil Nash suffered.
Connelly, seen mostly in small budget films such as Requiem for a Dream offers a brilliant performance. In a sense, her character is the real hero of the film.
Ed Harris, as the somewhat mysterious code-breaking officer, is very convincing.
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connelly
Direction: Ron Howard
Screenplay: Akiva Goldsman (based on a book by Sylvia Nasar)