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A Beautiful Mind (2001)

A Beautiful Mind review

It’s been ages since I ticked a movie off my “Films I should’ve seen by now but haven’t” list! However, after a conversation with my best mate a few days ago (he’s a big fan of this movie) I decided it was finally time to get one of the big ones watched - and, as an added bonus my mate came round to watch it with me this very afternoon.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a biography drama directed by Ron Howard (Cocoon, Apollo 13), starring Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Jennifer Connelly (Top Gun: Maverick), Paul Bettany (A Knight’s Tale), Ed Harris (The Truman Show), Josh Lucas (Le Mans '66) and Christopher Plummer (Knives Out) among many others.

It’s based on the 1998 unauthorised biography "A Beautiful Mind: A Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr., Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 1994" by Sylvia Nasar.

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“From the heights of notoriety to the depths of depravity, John Forbes Nash Jr. experienced 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.”

It doesn’t help that a lot of the unwatched films on my list are dramas (a genre I don’t naturally gravitate to). Inevitably though, much like with westerns, war films and mob movies I do tend to enjoy them when I watch them. I just always seem to opt for entertainment and escapism over well told stories with quality performances.

No matter how many times I put off watching a film then finally watch it and realise what I’ve been missing I never seem to learn my lesson.

I’ve been aware of A Beautiful Mind’s popularity and the fact that it won a load of awards for a long time and still it’s taken this long (and some subtle strong-arming from my friend) for me to finally watch it. I understand now why it’s held in such high regard by so many people.

Fortunately I somehow managed to avoid knowing anything about this film other than the fact that it starred Russell Crowe and that it was about a mathematical genius. As a result I had no idea where the story was going and was pleasantly surprised when another actor I hadn’t realised was in it showed up.

I’m kind of embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I always expected it to be a sort of rip off of Good Will Hunting (1997). Having seen it now I realise how ignorant and totally inaccurate that assumption was. They’re two entirely different yet equally brilliant films.

Russell Crowe’s performance had me hooked from the minute he came onto the screen. I’ve always liked him as an actor but his performance of John Nash is unlike any other performance I’ve seen him give to date. His almost autistic, socially awkward mannerisms and quirks endeared me to him straight away despite his obvious arrogance. It’s unsurprising he was nominated for best actor (but missed out to Denzel Washington for his performance in Training Day).

As good as Crowe is in this movie, he’s in excellent company with a superb supporting cast.

Jennifer Connelly is captivating as Nash’s wife Alicia and it’s clear to see why she picked up the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The scene where she smashes the glass and screams with rage in the bathroom, in my opinion is the best scene in the film.

Paul Bettany is another stand-out and his comedic personality offers levity in some of the more dramatic moments. In fact, me and my friend both commented on how neither of us have seen him in a bad film and how everyone needs a roommate like Charles, the character he plays.

Knowing practically nothing about the story I really enjoyed seeing it unfold with absolutely no idea how things were going to turn out. At times it felt like a mystery thriller like Shutter Island (2010) and I was totally invested and eager to know what was real and what (if anything) wasn’t.

What gives the whole thing even more weight is knowing that it’s based on real events and real characters. It also makes the story all the more heartbreaking.

Topped off with a beautiful score by James Horner this is one film I feel ashamed to have avoided for so many years, but I'm ultimately glad and fulfilled for having finally watched it.

Will I finally learn my lesson now and start giving more films that I’d usually put off watching a chance? I doubt it, but if there’s anything good to come from my ignorance it’s still having a load of potentially excellent movies to cross off my list.

Have you seen A Beautiful Mind? Of course you have. Let me know about it in the comments.

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