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Based on the life of Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr (Russell Crowe). In 1947 the brash West Virginian begins his studies at Princeton University, later topping his class with a paper that debunks 150 years of economic theory. Unaware that he is suffering from schizophrenia, Nash believes he has been recruited by government agent Parcher (Ed Harris) to decode messages hidden in newspapers and magazines for Russian sleeper agents. When his mental deterioration threatens to destroy his marriage to former student Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), Nash submits to electric shock therapy administered by Dr Rosen (Christopher Plummer).

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Would John Forbes Nash's life and work be recognised outside academic circles had it not been for his schizophrenia? Probably not, even though his theories have made a direct impact on the lives of most people on the planet. Director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman faced the usual dilemmas when turning a stark biography (written by Sylvia Nasar) into film that capable of playing before a wide audience. Some details considered too audience-unfriendly have been omitted, yet Howard and Goldman remain true to the spirit of Nash's confession 'I don't much like people and people don't much like me'. Their aim is not to turn a tortured, misanthropic genius into a lovable hero but to locate the goodness that kept his wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) and his academic colleagues loyal through the very worst of times.

They did a remarkable job, with box-office receipts, critical accolades and Academy Awards (for Connelly and Howard) proving the point. A crisp, clean 1.85:1 transfer and nicely separated audio tracks makes A Beautiful Mind good viewing on DVD. It's the kind of film that plays well on the small screen and stands up to repeat viewings - whether to admire Russell Crowe's extraordinary performance or to re-examine sequences in which Nash is accompanied by characters who are just figments of his tortured imagination.

The separate commentaries by Ron Howard and Akiva Goldsman is one of the best features. Howard recorded his track not long after the film's release and his comments have an immediacy you don't hear in many of the tracks recorded by directors long after the fact. He declares that 'directing this film is one of the truly extraordinary creative experiences of my entire life' and 'I don't think I was ever more depressed to say goodbye to a project'. There's very little overlap in the observations of Howard and Goldsman, who reveal just about everything you could want to know about John Nash, short of reading Sylvia Nasar's book. Howard says he doesn't normally like to include deleted scenes in DVD releases of his films but made an exception here because the quality of the discarded footage was so high. The 19 scenes (running just short of half an hour) prove him right - this is cutting room floor at its best and an excellent addition to a very fine release.

The retail release of this title includes a separate disc worth of features not included in the rental package. Hosted by Howard and his Imagine Films partner Brian Grazer, the second disc is loaded with good material that covers every angle of production. Whether you want to see the real John Nash in conversation with Ron Howard or find out how just about every special effects shot was created (and there are more than you'd ever imagine) it's all here. I normally skip through the technical info but the demonstrations and explanations here are far more entertaining than similar DVD segments in films with much more obvious use of computer trickery. If you liked A Beautiful Mind in cinemas chances are you'll feel the same way about this classy DVD item.
Published October 31, 2002

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CAST: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Christopher Plummer.

DIRECTOR: Ron Howard

RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: (RENTAL VERSION): Audio Commentary with Director Ron Howard, Audio Commentary with Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, 19 Deleted Scenes (with optional commentary by Ron Howard), Production Notes. Languages: English, Hungarian. Subtitles: English, Hungarian. Commentary Tracks also subtitled in English; Disc 2: A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, Development of the Screenplay, Meeting John Nash, John Nash accepting Nobel Prize, Casting Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connolly, Age Progression Process, Storyboard Comparison, Creation of Special Effects, Scoring the Film, Inside A Beautiful Mind, List of Academy Awards, Trailer, Soundtrack (advertisement). Language: English. Subtitles: English, German, Dutch, French, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Czech. Commentary Tracks also subtitled in English


DVD RELEASE: August 28, 2002 (rental); October 30, 2002 (retail)

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