A Beautiful Mind
Dir: Ron Howard
Running time: 134mins
You don't have any idea how brilliant John Forbes Nash is. Unless you've got a Nobel Prize sitting on top of your fridge, that is. And the odd thing is, that you won't have any idea how brilliant John Forbes Nash is if you watch the biopic that's just been made about him either. Trust me, for biopics, that's a serious downer.
Russell Crowe plays John Forbes Nash
, from approximately 19 to 60. Basically the story runs like this: Nash is brilliant, the kind of mind-bogglingly brilliant but unrecognised wunderkind that you only get in movies. Plus he's cursed by a lack of social skills mirrored only by his genius with sums. The boy can count, but he is Mister Billy-No-Mates. Squared.
His roomie aside, he's treated like the university gimp. Whatever skills he's got with hard sums are more than outweighed by the lack of dress sense, the ability to scare off women at fifty paces, and the whole involuntary spasm and flinching thing. Gladiator he ain't.
Until, at the last possible minute, he pulls off the most amazingly astonishing mathematical coup in the world ever. It doesn't really matter what the coup is, as long as you understand that it really is very good indeed.
Then the Man takes notice, and offers Nash top secret spy stuff to work on. Plus Nash gets (finally) a girl. And, luckily for Nash, it's Jennifer Connelly. But the spy stuff weighs on Nash's mind, and wifey bears the brunt...
...for bloody years.
If you haven't seen the movie it's probably unfair to go into more detail than that. However, it's fair to say the following, that won't upset the plot of the movie unnecessarily:
Though A Beautiful Mind
sets up its premise swiftly, it demolishes it also with admirable brevity, if only to dwell on the aftermath at excessive length. It's one of those movies that is trying to shoehorn an interesting, though resolutely non-cinematic story into a two-hour movie running time.
There's lots of good stuff along the way. Crowe
is good, in the Rain Man look-at-me-acting kind of way that the Academy loves come Oscar time. Nothing gets awards like a name actor playing a well-meaning kook. Connelly does good stuff in a thankless part, as do Paul Bettany and Ed Harris as Nash's best mate and secret service contact respectively. There's some neat evocation of post-war paranoia and college life.
What there isn't, though, is an accurate reflection of John Forbes Nash. Whole chunks of his life (one entire marriage, several maths achievements) are glossed over, in favour of specific cinematic episodes that may only have happened in Nash's head (if at all). We spend ages on one particular period because it's interesting, then rattle through another thirty years in an instant to get to a happy ending. This is frustrating, as is the movie's inability to convey either the wonder of discovery or the nature of any of what Nash was able to reveal through his maths work.
Ron Howard's proved an able director in the past, from movies such as Apollo 13, Splash, Ransom, The Paper (and my personal favourite, Night Shift), but here the worthiness of the subject, and the prospect of a meaty central acting role seems to have drowned out the storytelling instinct.
View the A Beautiful Mind trailer