Whilst at Princeton University, a young John Nash (Russell Crowe) fights with himself to make a lasting contribution to be his legacy to the mathematical world. After graduating from university, he turns to passing his genius onto others AKA teaching, and becomes romantically involved with his student Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). Meanwhile, the US government enlists his help in the fight against the USSR in the Cold War. Entangled in a conspiracy, Nash grows paranoid until he loses the plot. In his later years, he makes a discovery that won him a Nobel Prize. And it’s only Alicia who can save him from himself, allowing him to become the visionary we know him as today.
Today, John Nash is something of a maths legend. Looking for something for which he will be remembered long after he leaves this Earth, he finds his niche in code breaking. Yet, when you’re doing such tasks for the US Government you can bet there are plenty of strings attached. With this job comes a paranoia of epic proportions, sending John on a dark road that slides him into a brutal fight with schizophrenia. Films like this always win Oscars. That’s an undisputed fact. Films about the mentally ill and the abused are always under Oscar heat. Is that good thing? Is it good that people get enjoyment out this, or are they simply interesting and thought-provoking stories?
I won’t attest to the truth of this biography drama, as I am not mathematician nor am I a historian who can account to the historical accuracy. But what I can attest to is the film’s prowess in spinning a yarn that can be followed by audiences worldwide. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, and winning four: Directing, Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly), A Beautiful Mind gets a lot of flack. Though, I’m shocked to see Russell Crowe did not win Best Actor for what I’d say is the best performance of his career. Russell Crowe’s performance starts subtle with Nash at school but soon turns explosive and kinetic, yet also brilliant.
This isn’t your standard heart throb, man fallen from grace biography drama. The performances from Crowe and Connelly carry this film, as well as its intelligent screenplay (Akiva Goldsman) and superlative editing which is pivotal in showing the extent of Nash’s troubled mind. There’s one scene with Nash as a middle-aged man in the courtyards of Princeton talking to himself, surrounded by a crowd to witness the spectacle. The editing when Nash (Crowe) is having his schizophrenic bouts is really great. When he is having conversations with William Parcher (Ed Harris) towards the film’s end, it’s hard to tell reality from figments of his mind. Spooky huh?
Biography dramas of this nature should not be taken as one hundred percent fact, but should push audiences to research further into the people they discuss. Having recently seen The Man Who Knew Infinity, it shows that even fifteen years later that the films about scientists and mathematicians still have a place in the industry. Dev Patel plays Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. Whilst it didn’t get any acclaim, it’s great to see that these historical figures are getting the attention they deserve in the public eye, regardless if the films are win Oscars, BAFTAS or any other type of award. And I implore Hollywood to continue making movies of this nature.
From Connelly (American Pastoral) to Crowe (Les Misérables) to Ed Harris (Westworld), the acting is fantastic. And it was also great to see Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music) there as well. Their performances are some of the best performances I’ve seen in a biography drama, along with David Oyelowo in Selma and Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge to name a few. This is truly a character and performance film. Yet, A Beautiful Mind is also a message film. When everyone is telling you no, say yes. To quote Marvel’s Peggy Carter: “When the whole world tells you to move… plant yourself like a tree… and tell the whole world no, you move.” That’s how it’s done.
A Beautiful Mind is the portrait of every creative soul who has lost their way. The ensemble cast are amazing, the editing is sharp and the musical score is sucker punch to the throat. This is truly an emotionally proactive film and it’s one I will watch and time and time again.