Find a truly original idea. It is the only way I will distinguish myself. It is the only way I will ever matter.
As far as cinema goes, there is no denying that Russell Crowe owned the early 2000’s. Fresh off of his Oscar winning performance in Gladiator, Crowe starred in the 2001 Oscar Winning film A Beautiful Mind. The true story of Nobel Prize winner John Nash, A Beautiful Mind is a stunningly emotional roller coaster that looks at the horrors and unexpected triumphs of living with schizophrenia.
Now, if you haven’t seen this film, know nothing about it and know nothing about John Nash you may want to stop reading because for the first half of the two hour film there is no mention of schizophrenia. The film starts with the brilliant John Nash (Russell Crowe) entering Princeton University as a recipient of the prestigious Carnegie scholarship for mathematics. An awkward man, Nash finds companions in Sol (Adam Goldberg), Bender (Anthony Rapp), Ainsley Neilson (Jason Gray-Standford) and co-Carnegie recipient Martin Hansen (Josh Lucas) where Nash is the butt of every joke. The only person Nash really seems to become friends with it his roommate Charles Herman (Paul Bettany). As his colleagues publish work after work, Nash is unable to finish anything of consequence until a social situation leads him to create his great work, the one that eventually wins him the Noble Prize.
Moving forward through the years, Nash receives a job working for and teaching at MIT with Sol and Bender. Regarded as the best natural code breaker in the world, Nash is summoned to the Pentagon to help break codes. At MIT Nash meets two very important people, the first being Alicia Nash (Jennifer Connelly), a student who Nash ends up marrying. The second is William Parcher (Ed Harris) who approaches Nash with a top secret mission from the government. For years things go fine until Nash is plagued by suspicion and extreme paranoia. Beginning to fear for her husband, Alicia looks into his behavior and is forced to call Doctor Rosen (Christoffer Plummer) who diagnoses Nash with schizophrenia. As Nash tries to work out which of the important people in his life are hallucinations and which important assignments and events are delusions, his marriage and life suffers. Hating the medicine that dulls his extremely sharp mind and not wanting to risk the danger of elctro-shock therapy over and over again, Nash, with the support of his wife, tries to ignore the delusions. Asking Martin Hansen, now head of the Princton Math Department, if he can work on campus, Nash spends years sorting his delusions from reality and eventually is allowed to teach at Princeton before going on to win the Nobel Prize. Though he eventually beats them, his hallucination never leave him.
What was absolutely brilliant about this film was the direction director Ron Howard took. The audience was thrown into Nash’s life. For the first half of the film, the delusions did not seem like delusions and the hallucinations did not seen like hallucinations. You are devastated by the truth just as much as Nash is because, just like from Nash’s perspective, it is impossible to accept it as reality. The reality we thought we knew is wrong and that is devastating to cope with. Howard is an expert director, using soft, smooth cuts and transitions during the first half of the film to suspend any feeling of conflict, as if there is nothing wrong. Prior to the schizophrenia diagnosis there is conflict but even then the music and shot composition remains calm, giving the audience the impression that the conflict will be resolved with no problem. This is true since much of the conflict is not real, it is all in Nash’s head. As we get closer to and eventually learn the truth the directing and music subtly changes to make it an extremely suspenseful and conflict filled film.
I cried more times in this film than I would care to admit. Some tears were sad while many were happy, this film was an emotional power house. Beating Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Moulin Rouge! for Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind easily deserved the win. Ron Howard also took home an Oscar for Best Director, which was a no brainer in my mind, writer Akiva Goldsman won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Jennifer Connelly took home the award for Best Supporting Actress. Since I started reviewing each Oscar Winning film, I have never been so upset as I was when I found out Russell Crowe did not win Best Actor. In a performance that was spellbinding, the best I’ve ever seen him (yes, even better than Gladiator) he deserved the win. Denzel Washington, the winner, was great in Training Day but not as good as Russell Crowe. This is an A+, another one of those movies that everybody should see at some point in their lives.