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A Beautiful Mind - Final Film Critique

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A Beautiful Mind

Final Film Critique

ENG225: Introduction to Film

Instructor Paul Wiltz

January 23, 2017

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Drama Genre

Directed by:  Ron Howard

Cinematography:  Roger Deakins


Russell Crowe (Dr. John Nash)

Ed Harris ( Parcher)

Jennifer Connelly (Alicia Nash)

Paul Bettany (Charles)

Adam Goldberg (Sol)

Judd Hirsch (Hellinger)

Josh Lucas (Hansen)

Anthony Rapp (Bender)

ChristopherPlummer (Dr. Rosen)

The mind works in mysterious ways, in which one never knows what to take away from the intellectual concepts perceived.   Take, for instance, Dr. John Nash, a Nobel Prize winner known for revolutionalizing the mathematical field of game theory.  When John was approximately 30 years of age, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  The movie A Beautiful Mind,  based on a book written by Sylvia Nasar is inspired by the life of Dr. John Nash.

The movie A Beautiful Mind starts out at Princeton University with John Nash starting college wanting to make a name for himself.  You follow along as he struggles with solving theories to coming up with a published idea to help further his career path.  In the storyline, you sense he has a problem with being able to adjust to crowds or relationships.  In this part of the movie, you are introduced to a new character, a roommate Charles and later on his niece, Marcee.  He continues working on ideas on comes up with a concept on governing dynamics and publishes a paper which gets him an offer with MIT.  Once there he is brought in on a new government assignment to crack a Soviet plot that no one else could decipher that leads to further top-secret assignments by the Department of Defense.  His supervisor is a top secret agent known as Parcher.  Later on, he meets Alicia; they fall in love, marry, and she becomes pregnant with their son.  During this same period, Dr. Nash becomes increasingly paranoid after a shootout takes place during a drop off of top secret decoded documents.  Returning home, he locks himself in his study and refuses to come out or let his wife into the room to see him.  The next scenes show Dr. Nash back at Princeton giving a lecture where men come and take him away.  The next scene is at a psychiatric facility where you find John diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Alicia then follows Johns past footsteps, and the audience gets to see the scenes as they look, one from a schizophrenia view and the other from a sane person's eyes.  When confronted with the truth, John has a look of hopelessness on his face, then undergoes a series of treatments, and eventually is released.  After taking the medications for a while, he becomes discouraged with the side effects and starts hiding the fact that he is not taking his pills and he relapses into his illness again.  Once again he hallucinates and sees his old college friend Charles and FBI agent, Parcher.  When Alicia realizes John has relapsed, she rushes in just in time to save their son who almost drowns in the tub.  As she rushed to the phones to call Dr, Rosen, Parker tells John that she has to die.  As John goes to push Parcher, John instead pushes Alicia, and she falls to the ground, gets up and runs out to the car.  He then looks around and realizes that the people he sees never get older.  He rushes out and jumps in fronts of her car, exclaiming, “They never get old.”    In the rest of the movie, you watch as he decides to defeat the disease without medication, dealing with what is reality and what is not.  He learns to control the disease with the help and love of his wife, Alicia.  Dr. Nash learns how to ignore the hallucinations, and after years of battling the disease, John becomes a teacher at Princeton and is honored by his fellow professors.  The end of the movies shows Dr. Nash as he wins the Nobel Memorial Prize. When he leaves, with his wife Alicia by the side, it shows Charles, Parcher, and Charle’s, niece Marcee all watching as he leaves the auditorium.

What we have learned in this class is that a story is the simple level of an idea.  When a writer adds certain characters and events that turn it into plots. (Goodykoontz & Jacobs, 2014).  The movie A Beautiful Mind was inspired by the life of Dr. John Nash.  However, the facts surrounding the events of the story are different from the true life of John Nash.  In researching this movie, I found a review which was done in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry by Henry Jackson, (2002). In his paper; he discussed the real life story of John Nash and how his hallucinations were auditory and not visual in nature.  I think this was only one example of how the story/plot changed with dramatic scenes of hallucinations to bring about a visual effect so you can not establish what is real.  In watching the movie, I was convinced that he was indeed a spy and that he was being taken to extract information instead of to a psychiatric facility.  Another example from this same review of how the story/plot differs from his true life story was the fact that in the movie during his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize he says he takes the newer medications, and while they do not cure him, they help keep the disease at bay.   In his biography, John refused to take any medication for fear it would interfere with the quality of his mind.

In looking at the special effects, in one particular scene where Nash cracks the code, the use of three key lighting with the sound effects brought the audience face to face with the intelligence of John Nash as he deciphers the code within the numbers before him.  I felt this scene was edited to perfected with the camera going from the number a close-up shot of John Nash as you can hear him going over numbers and also hear a faint sound of music in the background.   Another interesting scene was the use of the stars in the sky as John outlined an umbrella for Alicia at a party for their first date.  I found that to be romantic and showed a connection right from the start between the two of them.

As far as the setting and costumes of the movies are concerned, when Alicia followed down John Nash’s footsteps to prove his schizophrenia, the change of the look of settings was remarkable.   Think about this, when John Nash went to these places, in his mind; he saw a beautiful lite up home with gated walls controlled by electronic keypads that opened mysteriously.  When Alicia when to the same location, she found a run-down, abandoned house with a rusty gate and a broken keypad.  

As far as looking as schizophrenia and believing that he, in fact, has this disease, once I was made aware of his hallucinations, I watched the movie again and found numerous mistakes.  For one,  in the beginning, scenes, they showed Charles shove John’s desk out of a window.  If he is a hallucination, this is an unrealistic scene.  Another scene shows Charles push, John.  I am wondering what the director was trying to show here?  You have to assume that he was looking at things from a movie standpoint and not from reality, as a fictitious character could not do the things he had them do in this movie.  However, it was entertaining.



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