Review: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

a beautiful mind poster

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?”
– Dr Rosen

John Nash (Russell Crowe) starts at Princeton University in 1947. There on the Carnegie Scholarship for mathematics, he is definitely the odd one out. He has difficulty making friends, and does not start on a good foot with his classmates. Martin Hansen (Josh Lucas) and he have a terrible rivalry due to both being there on the same scholarship. He sort of befriends a group of bright science and math graduates – Ainsley (Jason Gray-Stanford), Bender (Anthony Rapp) and Richard Sol (Adam Goldberg). His most unlikely friendship however is with his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), who is a little bit of a crazy literature student.

a beautiful mind nash on campus
“Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.” – John Nash

Nash is faced with extreme pressure to come up with something brilliant, something amazing and make his way in life from there. He will not write any paper and be published, though. It has to be original, it has to be fresh and defining – it has to be the one. A random idea strikes him while listening to his friends talk, and freshly defines governing dynamics. Due to his latest breakthrough, Nash is offered a job at MIT, and he chooses Sol and Bender to join him.

a beautiful mind
“Man is capable of as much atrocity as he has imagination.” – William Parcher

Nash has risen in esteem, though he seems not to be the most patient or gifted teacher. He does some work at the Pentagon where he has to crack a code, and shocks codebreakers when he deciphers the code mentally. Feeling his talents are lost at MIT, he jumps at the opportunity that William Parcher (Ed Harris) gives him. It is a top secret assignment that is perfect for Nash. He has to crack codes from magazines and newspapers for the United States Department of Defence to foil a Soviet plan. His discoveries are to be delivered to a secret mailbox.

Nash falls in love with his student, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly) after she makes all the relevant moods. Now Nash has a family, and this complicated the work he is doing for the government. Nash meets up with his best friend, Charles, and is introduced to Charles’ niece, Marcee (Vivien Cardone). They get along famously. Soon Nash marries Alicia and she becomes pregnant, and their lives begin. However, the work with Parcher gets out of hand, and Nash seriously needs to rethink how things will work, and tries to get out of the business, though Parcher will not let him go. All the strings come loose at a guest lecture at Harvard University when Nash tries to run from Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer), whom he believes is a Soviet agent. Nash is taken to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

a beautiful mind nash's office

Soon it becomes evident that Nash is a schizophrenic, and that Charles, Marcee and Parcher are figments of his imagination. Alicia will not accept that her husband is a lunatic, and investigates. Her, Sol and Bender establish that Nash really is losing his mind, and that so much that he believes is real is actually not. Nash undergoes numerous types of therapy to “fix” him, and is eventually released. Alicia and Nash try to piece their lives together, but Nash is embittered about the pills that he needs to take. They affect his mind – he cannot do mathematics anymore, and he cannot be with his wife or care for his child.

a beautiful mind nash in love
“I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.” – John Nash

How will the couple overcome the difficulties of Nash’s disease if he refuses to take the pills and acknowledge there is a problem? Nash cannot live a life without mathematics, and is taking the blow terribly hard of not being able to be the promising genius he was supposed to be. His friends and wife stand by him, and are all desperate to help him by and make things right. Martin Hansen becomes incredibly important to Nash’s recovery or acknowledgement of the issue. Will Nash ever be the genius, ever be respected for the evidently phenomenal mind that he has? Will he even be able to be the mathematical prodigal again and be honoured for it?

After an incident where Nash endangers his infant son and accidentally knocks Alicia and the baby to the ground (thinking he’s stopping Parcher from killing her), she flees the house in fear with their child. Nash steps in front of her car to prevent her from leaving. He tells Alicia, “She never gets old”, referring to Marcee, who although years have passed since their first encounter, has remained exactly the same age and is still a little girl. With this, he finally accepts that although all three people seem real, they are in fact part of his hallucinations. Against Dr. Rosen’s advice, Nash decides not to restart his medication, believing that he can deal with his symptoms in another way. Alicia decides to stay and support him in this.

Nash approaches his old friend and rival, Martin Hansen, now head of the Princeton mathematics department, who grants him permission to work out of the library and audit classes. Years pass and as Nash grows older he learns to ignore his hallucinations. Eventually he earns the privilege of teaching again.

A Beautiful Mind garners a solid 9/10. I know it was based loosely on John Nash, but loosely or not it was a heartrending story. It was stunning, yet so sad. It depressed me. Genius and madness really do share the same side of the coin. I thought Russell Crowe nailed his role, he was absolutely perfect, and depicted Nash as someone I felt so sorry for yet could not help but admire and respect just for his sheer intellect. It was a great cast that they put together, truly, and the camerawork was fantastic. For me it was an incredibly gripping story and did not have one dull moment in it. It is worth the watch. I have not seen it in years, but it struck me deeply once more when I watched it again. I honestly felt that this was one of Crowe’s truly defining roles. Nash’s story is sad, and the brief read that I looked into shows that they were more or less accurate in the rendering of his life and his madness as well as how it all progressed. There were so many times that I was just sitting there wishing someone would see these figments in his mind just to validate his paranoia. The anger I experienced with how he was mocked and ridiculed is beyond measure. People can be the cruelest and most truly vile and nasty things under the sun, so undeserving of respect. This movie kept me riveted – if you have not seen it, get on that immediately!

17 thoughts on “Review: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

    1. I would say it is most definitely my favourite Crowe performance without a doubt! This was really one of those truly inspiring movies, and it was executed so well. I can rave about this one, so excuse me!

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    1. Thanks Dan! I enjoyed it a lot, don’t follow awards and things too closely, to be honest. I think that they aren’t always very fair in how they pick the winners!

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