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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12
Cast
Jennifer Connelly
Christopher Plummer
Paul Bettany
Russell Crowe
Ed Harris.
Directors
Ron Howard.
Screenwriters
Akiva Goldsman.
Running Time
136 minutes

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A Beautiful Mind
Inspirational, if slightly too Hollywoodised, biopic of the mathematical whizz struggling with mental illness


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Plot
John Nash is a mathematical whizz struggling to come up with a truly original idea with which to make his name. Later in life, however, a stint code-breaking for the government results in creeping paranoia and a gradual slide into schizophrenia.


Review
Playing the mentally ill has always been a fast-track to critical and Oscar success, and so it proved for Russell Crowe, who bagged a third successive nomination for his performance as mentally-ill maths genius John Nash in Ron Howard's glossy biopic, which won Best Picture in 2002.

Crowe's off-screen contretemps with a Bafta official apparently cost him the chance to follow up on his Gladiator gold and follow in the footsteps of Geoffrey Rush (Shine), Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot) and Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man), but there's no denying that his crowd-pleasing performance is this movie's trump card.

Essentially it's that old chestnut, the inspirational biopic and Howard skilfully yomps us along the well-worn path of early promise (success at sums!), catastrophic downfall (going bonkers!), and a final, emotionally-charged triumph over adversity (winning the Nobel Prize!). The problem is that, even if you haven't read the book on which it's based, you're left with the niggling suspicion that this is all too neat to be anything near the whole story. As indeed turns out to be the case.

Nash's bisexuality, a child out of wedlock and a divorce are all AWOL, while the feel-good ending neatly skips over the horrible, irreparable reality of a professional and personal life effectively ruined by insanity. Of course, any biopic smoothes the edges and has to construct a story out of the messy realities of life, but here there's a sense that the manipulation borders on dishonesty.

None of which is to deny that there are very good things as well. Crowe marshals his tics with showy aplomb, Howard displays his usual facility for smoothly-engineered filmmaking, and Akiva Goldsman's (yup, he of Batman & Robin) screenplay delivers the necessary dramatic wallop and a craftily shocking reversal.

Support is generally good, especially from Paul Bettany, last seen whooping it up as Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight's Tale, and the movie's only Oscar-winning performance from Bettany's future missus, Jennifer Connelly, here playing the put-upon and long-suffering Mrs. Nash. But in the end, Howard's film's undoubted effectiveness conceals a disappointingly cynical heart.


Verdict
If this were fiction, it would be an example of superior storytelling, and it's certainly gripping. Whether you can fully enjoy its many strengths depends on how comfortable you are with a real, tortured and ultimately tragic life being forced into Hollywood's formulaic straitjacket.


Reviewed by Adam Smith


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for A Beautiful Mind
Empire Star Rating

Saw for the first time yesterday and I have to say it as great it's now in my Top 20 films of all time. 5/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by NCC1701A at 08:04, 12 November 2013 | Report This Post


A Beautiful Mind

I feel the official review is quite harsh. The scriptwriter, Akiva Goldman, grew up in a house with schizophrenics, and acknowledged that, despite using the actual names of the real-life people its based on, was intentionally semi-fictional. I think he was attempting to show how many can and do recover from mental illness.I would count this film as a classic. It maintains your attention throughout with a brilliant, if very polished, storyline. Paul Bettany is one underappreciated actor. Crowe wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by piraterocker1 at 23:32, 11 March 2011 | Report This Post


Great performances but a little incoherent ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pinstriped_boogaloo at 10:02, 12 June 2009 | Report This Post


A Beautiful Mind

A strong lead performance from Crowe and the role that should've won him an Oscar instead of Gladiator. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by WiseGuy101 at 22:05, 21 February 2009 | Report This Post


Well-meaning but cold. I don´t care if Nash had antisemitic hallucinations - please, the man had schizophrenia, don´t be unsavory! - but the film was not that good. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Psychotic angel at 17:23, 22 January 2009 | Report This Post


Great film. A little draggy in the end. Bettany was robbed of an Oscar nomination. Terrific acting and directing. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 15:19, 21 December 2007 | Report This Post


Great film. A little draggy in the end. Bettany was robbed of an Oscar nomination. Terrific acting and directing. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lynnshep at 15:19, 21 December 2007 | Report This Post


CROWE WASTED

how did this ever win the oscar? hollywood does Schizophrenia and we all lived happily ever after. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 15:44, 25 October 2007 | Report This Post


CROWE WASTED

how did this ever win the oscar? hollywood does Schizophrenia and we all lived happily ever after. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 15:44, 25 October 2007 | Report This Post


BEAUTIFUL

CROWE WAS SUPERB, A TOUCHING MOVIE ABOUT A BRILLIANT MAN WHO SUFFERED FROM A MENTAL ILLNESS. HE PLAYED THIS MAN PERFECTLY, ANTI-SOCIAL, WANTING TO GET LAID, THINKING UP OF MATHAMATICAL SOLUTIONS TO GET LAID, GENIUS! BUT DID ANY OF THOSE EXIST EITHER! IT MAY HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THIS CONDITION MORE. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RuthJ at 01:48, 20 October 2007 | Report This Post


Beautiful mind. Beautiful movie

beautiful acting. Exelent Directing this movie is truely a classic. Russell is fantastic in this movie he should have got the best actor in the oscars. This movie all the way through leeves you tring gess what the end is going to be and when it gets to the end it turns out to be something completely unexpected. CLASSIC ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by davieboy at 16:25, 13 April 2007 | Report This Post


Beautiful mind. Beautiful movie

beautiful acting. Exelent Directing this movie is truely a classic. Russell is fantastic in this movie he should have got the best actor in the oscars. This movie all the way through leeves you tring gess what the end is going to be and when it gets to the end it turns out to be something completely unexpected. CLASSIC ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by davieboy at 16:25, 13 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

It was criticised for sanitising Nash's colourful sexual exploits and unsavoury opinions.   www.culturekiosque.com/nouveau/cinema/abeautifulmind.ht mlp; p;   ... More

Posted by Mason Verger at 23:33, 24 September 2006 | Report This Post


RE:

An all round quality film with a good plot and performances! 4/5 ... More

Posted by BobaJango at 16:29, 16 February 2006 | Report This Post


Bettany is great. Crowe is good but seems upstaged by all the other actors. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by wackojacko at 22:15, 15 February 2006 | Report This Post


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