Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, Josh Lucas, Adam Goldberg, Christopher Plummer, Anthony Rapp, Judd Hirsch
Director: Ron Howard
Summary: After a brilliant but asocial mathematician accepts secret work in cryptography, his life takes a turn for the nightmarish
Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Crowe), Supporting Actress (Connelly)*, Adapted Screenplay*, Original Score, Makeup, Film Editing
Big glossy Oscar bait bio-pics aren’t my kind of thing, but it’s pretty good nonetheless. Crowe (and to a lesser extent Connelly) carries the movie with his performance (mainly his post-grad school version of John Nash) and both he and the movie as a whole do a great job of depicting his deteriorating mental state. Along the same lines, the presentation is general is handled well, like with the famous “illuminated words and letters” device to show the viewer how Nash sees patterns and the world differently and the makeup is on point. The movie certainly takes some liberties with the facts (and omits some important ones), but mostly for good reasons and the person at his core and his very real plight feel true to life at least.
The main issues for me is the script which is a mixed bag. Even if the structure is good, the dialogue is extremely blunt and unnatural at times and it felt weak (you mean hiring a guy who’s last two solo screenplays before A Beautiful Mind were Batman & Robin and the Lost in Space remake might not deliver a great script? You don’t say!) The other problem is really with Ron Howard in general. He’s a very competent filmmaker, but he lacks any real creative vision or soul in my opinion. Here, the movie takes very few risks and outside of a creative structural decision (which was thought up by the screenwriter) and doesn’t deviate from big, broad emotions. It’s a perfectly good movie, but it didn’t strike a chord with me.
Additional note: this was the third straight Dreamworks movie to win Best Picture; if Saving Private Ryan had won, it would have been four in a row. (they never won again by the way). The only other time this happened was with United Artists (1975-77).