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A Beautiful Mind(2001)
From the heights of notoriety to the depths of depravity, John Forbes Nash, Jr. experiences it all. A mathematical genius, he made an astonishing discovery early in his career and stood on the brink of international acclaim. But the handsome and arrogant Nash soon found himself on a painful and harrowing journey of self-discovery once he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After many years of struggle, he eventually triumphed over this tragedy, and finally, late in life, received the Nobel Prize.
For more about A Beautiful Mind and the A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray release, see A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch
Director: Ron Howard
» See full cast & crew
A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray Review
Would the real John Nash please stand up?
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 3, 2011
Genius is notoriously difficult to convey on screen. Mad genius is even more challenging, particularly when the mad genius in question isn't a Bond villain, an evil scientist or a Machiavellian monster. A Beautiful Mind takes that final leap, delving into the genius, madness and humanity of mentally unstable, Noble Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. Sadly though, director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman apparently weren't interested in telling Nash's story. Rather than paint an authentic portrait of his life and illness, Howard and Goldsman indulge in cinematic flourishes and fictitious absurdities, undermining their presumably noble intentions at every turn. The real John Nash never had visual hallucinations, never worked for the Pentagon, didn't begin battling mental instability until 1959, divorced Alicia Larde in the early '60s (ahem... Alicia Lopez-Harrison de Lardé, a Salvadorian immigrant and physics student), didn't hear voices until 1964, earned recognition for numerous groundbreaking strides in mathematics and economics years before winning the Noble Prize, didn't give a speech at the Stockholm ceremony and never resumed taking medication. And those are just the major differences between Nash's tumultuous life and the filmmakers' largely fabricated biopic.
But does A Beautiful Mind stand on its own merits? Is it a worthwhile film in spite of its jarring departures from fact? Most of all, is it better than Gosford Park, In the Bedroom, The Fellowship of the Ring and Moulin Rouge, the four films it deprived of a Best Picture Academy Award?
Shortcomings aside (at least for the moment), A Beautiful Mind excels in several areas. Howard's award-winning cast, led by an inwardly magnetic Russell Crowe and a convincingly distraught Jennifer Connelly (as Nash and Ladre), shed startling light on the very real stresses and strains that accompany severe mental illness, much more so than Goldsman's screenplay. Crowe's Oscar-worthy performance is especially powerful, and the accomplished actor all-too-effectively descends into the depths of Nash's delusions. The film's supporting cast is outstanding as well. Ed Harris makes the most of limited screentime as a shady government spook, Paul Bettany swipes entire scenes from Crowe as Nash's seize-the-day grad-school roommate and Josh Lucas, Adam Goldberg, Christopher Plummer and Anthony Rapp are compelling (despite being underused and given little to work with).
It's also a beautiful film. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, Kundun, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Man Who Wasn't There, No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James, The Reader and True Grit, among many, many, many others) lends his famed eye and lenses to Howard's production, employing evocative light, shadow and color to breathtaking ends. Next to Crowe, Deakins is the film's greatest asset. Composer James Horner (Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, The New World and Avatar, again among many others) puts his ear and baton to great use as well, weaving themes as intricate and involving as Nash's mathematical equations. Like Deakins, Horner enriches the tone and tenor of the tragedies that unfold, reminding viewers of Nash's humanity even when he's at his most inaccessible.
To their credit, Howard and Goldsman navigate perilous waters with certainty and confidence... for the better part of an hour. Once the extent of Nash's schizophrenia is revealed, everything changes. Everything. It's a brilliant bit of masterclass sleight-of-hand, I'll admit. One of the sharpest turns a film has taken in recent memory, no doubt. But Howard and Goldsman lose their grip on the film as suddenly as Nash loses his grip on reality. Sentiment quickly overtakes the narrative, the story occasionally shudders and stalls, crucial years pass without exploration, leaps in logic raise nagging questions, a child is born before inexplicably disappearing, and the careful balance Howard previously struck between Nash's genius, madness and humanity is slowly and casually discarded. It's almost like watching two entirely different films, neither of which is as complete or cohesive as it could be. To be clear: A Beautiful Mind isn't a mediocre movie by any means, but the result is less than the sum of its parts.
So does A Beautiful Mind stand on its own merits? To a point, although not enough to make the whole of the picture as rewarding as its finest sequences. Is it a worthwhile film in spite of its jarring departures from fact? In some regards, I suppose. But stripping an already fascinating true story of nearly everything that makes it a true story begs the question: why would anyone tackle a biopic if they were determined to traipse so far off the beaten path? Why not simply tell another tale entirely, a fictional film in the vein of Good Will Hunting? Finally, is it better than the four films it deprived of a Best Picture Academy Award? Not in my humble opinion. While its performances, cinematography, score and meticulously constructed first hour deserve considerable praise, A Beautiful Mind isn't strong enough to warrant a Best Picture nomination, much less a coveted Best Picture statue. (Not that 2001 was teeming with an abundance of more deserving films.)
A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray, Video Quality
Though far from perfect, Universal's 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer does a decent job distinguishing itself from the studio's lesser catalog titles. Roger Deakins's cinematography is as technically striking as it is artistically dazzling, once again making Deakins the film's greatest asset. Gorgeous midsummer tones give way to reclusive wintry hues as Nash's mental state deteriorates, and color accuracy, skintone saturation, black depth and contrast leveling remains suitably beautiful throughout. Detail isn't crisp or consistent -- fine textures are notably resolved in some scenes, somewhat soft in others -- but, for the most part, the perceived discrepancies I encountered trace back to Deakins's photography, Howard's aesthetics and the filmmakers' artistic intentions. In fact, many a closeup and midrange shot looks quite good, delineation is impressive and there isn't any significant artifacting, banding, crush or print damage to report. (No, a few fleeting nicks and specks aren't what I'd consider significant.)
Unfortunately, a fair amount of obvious edge enhancement spoils what might have otherwise been a more faithful catalog presentation. Object definition is satisfying, sure -- commendable even -- but noticeable, at-times garish edge halos haunt the film from beginning to end. Though far from the worst EE I've seen, it's intrusive enough to distract discerning videophiles and filmfans with larger displays. It isn't an insufferable issue at all, it just knocks the Blu-ray edition of A Beautiful Mind down a full notch or two.
A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is more proficient than its video transfer and the results are reasonably immersive. Dialogue is warm, grounded and neatly prioritized in the mix, and voices are never overwhelmed by Nash's chaotic delusions, heavier stretches of the film's sound design or James Horner's score. LFE output isn't earth-shattering, but it isn't listless either, weighing in with measured heft and subtle presence. Rear speaker activity is somewhat reserved as well, albeit refreshingly so. Elegant ambience, convincing acoustics and delicate directionality create a subdued but enveloping soundfield; one perfectly suited to a drama like A Beautiful Mind. Still, several sequences leave their mark -- the years Nash spends working at the Pentagon are anything but peaceful -- and Horner's stirring score fills the stage even when the mathematician withdraws into the quiet confines of his mind. All in all, fans of the film will be most pleased.
A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of A Beautiful Mind includes almost all of the supplemental material that first appeared on the film's DVD release. A small selection of Oscar-night clips is missing, but every other special feature is present and accounted for. The only snag? All of the video content is presented in standard definition.
A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
A Beautiful Mind is a good film, just not a great film. I'm sure that are plenty of people who will disagree with that statement and plenty more who appreciate everything Howard and Goldsman have managed to accomplish. But John Nash deserves a proper biopic, one that digs into his struggles, passions and illness rather than one that takes such liberties with his life. Thankfully, the film's Blu-ray debut isn't nearly as divisive. Its video transfer, though sullied by some glaring edge enhancement, is above average, its DTS-HD Master Audio track is steady and strong, and its supplemental package adds legitimate value to the release. If you've never had the opportunity to watch A Beautiful Mind, here it is. At the very least, the film is worth renting. If you're already well acquainted with Howard's Oscar-winner though, add it to your cart, look past whatever edge halos appear and enjoy.
A Beautiful Mind: Other Editions
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A Beautiful Mind Blu-ray, News and Updates
• A Beautiful Mind, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Blu-ray A... - October 13, 2010
Univesal Studios Home Entertainment has announced two catalog titles for Blu-ray release on January 25, 2011: the award-winning A Beautiful Mind (Ron Howard, 2001) and the indie favorite Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004). Both will be ...
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