I still remember when I first saw A Beautiful Mind, it didn’t take long for it to jump into my favorite films of all time list. When it was released back in 2001, it was met with critical praise, a respectable box office haul and four well deserved Academy Awards. Even now I think it stands as one of Russell Crowe’s strongest performances and one of Ron Howard’s finest films. It’s taken a while but the film is finally getting a Blu-Ray release and audiences everywhere now have the chance to view this remarkable film in all its high def glory. It’s been ten years since the film was released in theatres, how does it hold up nearly a decade later? Read on to find out.
The film tells the real life story of John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe), a Nobel Laureate in Economics who, early on in his life, developed paranoid schizophrenia. The film starts off with Nash at Princeton and we follow him throughout his life as he meets his wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), works for the Pentagon, teaches at MIT, deals with his mental illness and struggles to keep his grip on reality, all while he watches his life starting to fall apart, due to his schizophrenia. It’s a fascinating and engrossing story and one well worth watching.
When it was released, Akiva Goldsman’s script was heavily criticised, mainly for not staying entirely true to the real life story of John Nash. Most people pointed out that important details were omitted and factious events were thrown in. While it may be doing a disservice to Nash’s life, it doesn’t really hurt the film and unless you’re quite familiar with his story, you probably won’t even notice it. The story of the film is one of its strongest elements. It’s moving, inspirational, intriguing and gripping. It’s told so well that you’ll be hard pressed to turn away from the screen for even a second. It’s very well written as well, aside from some crummy, stilted dialogue here and there. It’s paced appropriately and is told in a way that can easily be understood. Even those who have never heard of Nash before won’t feel left out. Goldsman may have had some questionable projects in his past but he has a winner on his hands with this one.
What really shines here though is the acting. The core trio of Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Ed Harris do some tremendous work here. Crowe gives us one of the best performances of his career as he becomes totally lost in his character. For the entire movie he is John Nash. His mannerisms, the way he speaks, the way he carries himself, everything, it’s all perfect. It’s a passionate and remarkable performance and he truly deserved the Oscar that year. Connelly is equally as good, matching Crowe every step of the way. She superbly plays the role of Alice, Nash’s wife, who struggled to take care of him as his illness got worse. And then of course there’s Ed Harris, who plays the shady D.O.D agent. It’s the perfect role for him and he absolutely nails it.
Howard’s deft direction takes us inside the mind of Nash and we really feel a sense of confusion and dubiousness, as we never quite know what’s real and what’s not, making us feel much like Nash himself. I’ve seen Howard’s direction come under scrutiny on many occasions for being too drab and not unique enough. A lot of people will say that just because it’s ‘a Ron Howard film’, it doesn’t mean anything, he never adds his own flare or style to his pictures.
While I can’t completely argue against this point, I do think that with this film, Howard has done a fine job in directing. Sure, you never really get that sense that it’s a ‘Ron Howard film’, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t well directed. Throw in a captivating score by composer James Horner and imaginative cinematography from the always excellent Roger Deakins, and on a technical level, the film is pretty good.
Although the film received much critical praise, there were definitely a ton of haters. I’ve read a lot of negative reviews on the film but I just don’t understand where it comes from. 10 years later this movie is just as exceptional as it was back when it came out. It was just as good as I remembered it and I still love it.
Crowe’s performance is brilliant, Connelly is spectacular and everyone in the supporting cast brings their ‘A’ game, from Josh Lucas to Ed Harris to Christopher Plummer and of course Paul Bettany. It’s a poignant story that really touches you and I wouldn’t blame you for tearing up at the end. I can’t recommend the film enough and if you still haven’t gotten around to seeing this gem, I suggest you do so ASAP.
Now let’s take a look at the disc itself. Deakins’ cinematography shines here as his beautifully captured shots show up looking great. The film offers a rich colour palette that compliments the look and feel of the movie. Black levels are accurate and detail is fairly good. The picture won’t dazzle and it’s far from demo material but it’s a nice upgrade from the DVD.
In terms of the audio, Horner’s orchestral score springs to life here as it triumphantly fills the room. It’s a very rich sounding track and dialogue is always front and centre. Ambient effects are placed appropriately and this is a strong mix overall. As with the video, it’s not going to blow you away but it complements the film nicely.
When it comes to special features we get the following:
- Feature commentaries:
- Director Ron Howard
- Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman
- A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard & Brian Grazer
- Development of the Screenplay
- Meeting John Nash
- Casting Russell Crowe & Jennifer Connelly
- The Process of Age Progression
- Final Feature Comparisons
- Creating of the Special Effects
- Inside A Beautiful Mind
- pocket BLU
- My Scenes
Unfortunately, I think they went for quantity over quality here. Firstly, it should be noted that these are the same extras as the DVD version of the film, so if you have the DVD, then you’ve seen these before. And, if you’ve seen them before, you’ll know that they’re not incredibly engaging. Aside from the Inside A Beautiful Mind feature, they’re all under 10 minutes and don’t offer a whole lot. Even the Inside A Beautiful Mind feature isn’t great. It’s roughly 20 minutes but it’s mainly fluff, nothing too in depth. It’s a pretty run of the mill making of documentary and it’s definitely more of a promotional item, I mean, they start off the damn thing with an Awards promo for the film.
The other features, as I said, all run under 10 minutes and deal exactly what you’d expect them to deal with just by looking at the title. As for the commentaries, Howard’s was insightful and interesting but Goldsman’s was a bit slow and at times painful to listen to.
At the end of the day, despite the poor special features, A Beautiful Mind is well worth the purchase. It’s a fantastic film that I enjoy more and more with every viewing. The audio/video is an improvement over the DVD and watching this film in high def is a real treat. I wish the special features had been a bit better but in the end, they don’t hurt the overall package that much.
A Beautiful Mind is a terrific movie. Fantastic performances from everyone involved and a truly memorable story. Now that it’s on Blu-Ray, there’s no better time to check it out if you already haven’t. For those who have seen the film, if you enjoyed it, then this purchase should be a no brainer. A Beautiful Mind is a film everyone should see.
Movie Score: 9/10
Video Score: 7.5/10
Audio Score: 8/10
Special Features Score: 6/10
- Brilliant performances
- Moving and gripping story
- A truly remarkable film
- Special features are a bit of a letdown
- The dialog suffers in various scenes
A Beautiful Mind was released on Blu-Ray on January 11th, 2011