In 2001 Hollywood produced one of its most powerful movies: “A Beautiful Mind”. Starring Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly, this movie tells the life story of brilliant mathematician John Nash. With superb supporting actors such as Ed Harris, Christopher Plummer, and Paul Bettany, the story also follows the struggles that Nash’s wife, Alicia, endured. Set over the decades from the 1940s until the 1990s, this amazing drama is sure to affect even the least emotional of moviegoers.
The film opens in 1947 as John Nash (Crowe) is welcomed to the doctoral program at Princeton. The scene is given a yellowish tint, making the viewer feel as though they are looking at an old film reel. Gradually this tint disappears, and so the audience is drawn into this old world. Nash begins as a socially awkward individual, but with the help of his “Prodigal Roommate” Charles (Bettany), he ventures out into the social world of the school. At one point he is at a bar with other math students when they begin to discuss a mathematical theorem for how to best seduce a young woman seated across the room. Here, Nash realizes that this long-standing theorem needs revision and runs off in a heated frenzy. This new idea is proposed to the school, and it earns him a placement working for Wheeler Labs.
In 1953, Nash is asked to break a code for the Department of Defense. It is here that he meets Parcher (Harris), a secretive man in charge of a classified department. He invites Nash to work for him decoding periodicals with the hope of finding Russian spies in the United States. Nash devotes all of his energy to this new job, neglecting his students and his family. Eventually his wife Alicia (Connelly) becomes suspicious, and when she realizes what he is doing she learns more than she ever imagined. The devastating discovery takes over both of their lives and tests the bonds of their love. As the tagline for this film says, “The only thing greater than the power of the mind is the courage of the heart.” Connelly’s phenomenal portrayal of this strong woman earned her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. This movie tells of a love so strong that nothing can break it, though it is stretched as far as it can be. Anyone who watches this movie will be amazed by her spirit and drawn near tears as they watch their struggles.
As with all movies spanning a long range of time, makeup is key in convincing the audience, and “A Beautiful Mind” is no exception. The makeup department managed to make Crowe and Connelly age flawlessly from young adulthood until their old age. Crowe in particular seems to age naturally, adding the weight and losing the hair where one would expect him to. In his middle age, he seems to be completely beat by life, strung out and exhausted. Combined with the great acting and emotional script, the makeup completes the image impeccably.
Equally as important is the underscoring, composed by James Horner. The music throughout the film is very simple, yet intentionally so. When Nash is in social situations, the music is that of the time: juke box tunes, background music that would be expected at parties and gatherings. But when he is alone, the music takes on a much different role. There are, in general, three main colors of underscoring: the decoding, the dark, and the love. The decoding theme has an undulating rhythm underneath a long, slow moving melody in the upper woodwinds and voice. This combination builds intensity and always comes to a startling halt whenever he solves his current code. The dark music accompanies Parcher and the secret work Nash is doing, giving the audience the impression that they are being followed or watched. The love music is aimed specifically at Nash and Alicia, and is played whenever they are alone. The simplicity of the music is what gives it so much power, never detracting from the action but always enhancing it.
This movie is one that everyone should watch. It has action, suspense, drama, comedy, and romance. It is based on the life of a real man. It has unexpected twists and turns and is sure to wrench the hearts of its viewers. Watch only if you are ready for a film that will deeply affect you and leave you thinking well after the credits roll. An amazing experience, worth the 4 Academy Awards it won, and one that everyone should watch at least once.