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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Hungarian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, Hungarian
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes - With Director's Commentary
  • Theatrical trailer
  • 2 Audio commentary - Director. Screenwriter
  • Cast/crew biographies
  • 10 Featurette
  • Production notes
  • Animated menus
  • Storyboards

A Beautiful Mind

Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 130 mins . M15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It is rare that a film manages to combine a decent script, solid acting, great direction, believability, and a decent transfer to DVD. Most releases manage to score well in one or two categories, while failing miserably in the others. Ron Howard's A Beautiful Mind manages to get it right in almost every category, with only one or two minor failings that will be discussed shortly. A Beautiful Mind hits the stores as a two-disc "Awards Edition" and represents good value.

A Beautiful Mind is the life story of respected Nobel Prize for Economics winner, John Forbes Nash (Russell Crowe). The film opens with Nash already a student at Princeton, and follows his remarkable story up to the presentation of his Nobel Prize in 1994. There are two rather remarkable things about Nash, his incredible intellect and grasp of mathematics, and his long-term battle with schizophrenia.

One of Nash's greatest achievements was the development of his economic equilibrium (Game Theory) in 1948 that forever changed the way in which world economics is studied, even if his theory was largely ignored by economists. The early part of the film is devoted to establishing Nash's character, and introducing other significant players. The pace is steady, and gives no indication of the drama that will unfold in the second half.

In the days that follow his graduation from Princeton, Nash sets up a small business with fellow graduates. Shortly after, a secretive US Defense representative, wanting him to help decode intercepted messages, approaches him. Being a patriot, Nash naturally does his duty, but things start to get decidedly dangerous the more he uncovers. His new wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), at first unaware of her husband's work, becomes increasingly more fearful, and questioning as the truth is slowly revealed.

Nash's schizophrenia is a constant, life-long illness that both plagues his thoughts, and in a strange way brings him comfort and support. To say more would ruin the experience, but if you are expecting a movie about a paranoid schizophrenic locked in an institution for others to study, or even laugh at, you will be disappointed. This film treats schizophrenia for what it is, an illness that many people live with, and thankfully, with help and increased understanding, now manage. With the large number of people that supposedly suffer some sort of mental illness, it is refreshing to see a film treat the subject with some genuine understanding.

As mentioned, there is solid acting, a great screenplay based on Sylvia Nasar's biography on John Nash, A Beautiful Mind, some clever yet subtle special effects, great makeup and a genuinely interesting story. One of the strengths of the film is the various points at which viewers may begin to work out what is really happening in Nash's worlds, but even then most of these points are blurred. The few annoyances include Ron Howard's over-romanticising of the story, but as he has had great success with this style of storytelling, I can see why he would be reluctant to change. The other annoyance is that the film is only loosely based on the life of John Nash, and as such the dramatisation does not touch on other aspects of his past. These include his dalliances into homosexuality, his divorce and subsequent remarriage to Alicia, his anti-Semetic feelings and his violent temper. Nasar's biography includes these aspects of his life, and gives added meaning to the title, A Beautiful Mind.

Although dramatised and romanticised, A Beautiful Mind is still a solid film, with fine performances from the leads and supporting cast members including Ed Harris and Christopher Plummer. The film won several key Oscars in 2002 including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress and Best Screenplay. Crowe earned a Best Actor nomination, and his being overlooked is still a topic of discussion. Judge for yourself with this DVD that includes numerous extras and a great transfer.

  Video
Contract

This is basically a very good transfer, with only a few infrequent faults. A Beautiful Mind is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The overall image is very sharp and detailed. Colours are very accurate and natural, with some of the earlier shots displaying some colour muting to help age the look of the film, as it begins in the 1940s. There is no evidence of any colour problems such as bleeding or chroma noise, but you would not expect problems of this nature in such recent material.

Black levels are deep and constant, and shadow detail is very good. There are a very few scenes that display some minor grain, but these are easily overlooked. Aliasing is very minimal, though there are a few scenes where it could have been a problem. Film artefacts likewise are kept to a minimum and viewers will be hard pressed to find them unless specifically looking.

Overall, this is a great transfer, with a layer change placed between scenes at 68:48, and while it's obvious, it could have been far worse.

  Audio
Contract

This is a very solid and often subtle Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. Most sound comes from the front speakers, with most dialogue placed in the centre. Rear channels are used for ambient sounds and are most effective in the outdoor scenes. There are one or two instances where sound is placed in the rear speakers that doesn't seem quite right, but mostly this is not a problem. There is also some distinct separation of the audio across the front speakers that occasionally sounds a little overdone, such as the noise of closing doors.

Low level sounds are mostly limited to the fine musical score. The music is evenly placed around the room, and fills up the space nicely.

There are no problems with synchronisation or clarity. Being a dialogue driven film, this is not the DVD you will use to convince the skeptical to switch to DVD, yet it makes for a great listening experience.

The Turkish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio also sounds fine, and the English subtitles differ only slightly from the spoken word, but any differences are very minor and irrelevant.

  Extras
Contract

This two-disc release features exactly the same features on disc one as the rental version that is currently available. This new edition features a jam-packed second disc.

Disc one features two Audio Commentaries, one from director Ron Howard, the other from screenwriter Akiva Goldsman. The first from Howard is a solid effort that covers topics you would expect such as directing, the actors' performances, the nature of location filming, and includes a number of comparisons between the movie version of Nash and the real life figure.

The second commentary, from Goldsman, is also quite interesting, and he reveals many of his inspirations for various scenes, and his overall fondness for the movie.

A generous helping of Deleted Scenes is also to be found on this disc, and at just short of 28 minutes, the eight scenes are made all the more interesting by the optional commentary from Ron Howard. The scenes are nowhere near as clean as the finished product, and are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but are not 16x9 enhanced.

We also get Production Notes, which is a series of text screens that are easy to read. Also easy to read are the numerous Cast and Crew Biographies.

Disc two is where you will find the more in-depth extras. All are presented in basically full frame format (movie snippets are non-16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio) and Dolby Digital stereo.

A Beautiful Partnership: Ron Howard & Brian Grazer is a short 5:28 minute interview with the director and producer team as they briefly describe their long-time business partnership. There are several behind-the-scenes snippets included.

Development of the Screenplay at 8:19 minutes allows Akiva Goldsman plenty of time to explain his take on developing a screenplay.

Meeting John Nash is interesting for the fact that it properly introduces us to the real John Nash for the first time. Ron Howard sought Nash's permission to film their meeting to hear Nash's theories explained. Howard makes all the right noises and nods at the right time, but it is obvious that, like most of us, he has no idea what Nash is talking about.

Accepting The Nobel Prize for Economics lasts a shade under two minutes, and is the actual footage of the real Nash being presented his prize at the 1994 Awards ceremony.

Casting Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly as the name suggests, features Howard and Grazer discussing for six minutes, the casting process for the film, and that while Crowe was cast even before Gladiator, finding a female lead was not as easy.

Creation of the Special Effects is the highlight of the extras, and at just over ten minutes is way too short. It breaks down several of the key scenes and proves that great special effects are often the ones that no one even notices.

Scoring the Film features film of James Horner and Charlotte Church during the recording process, and includes comment from Horner.

Inside a Beautiful Mind quickly turns into a back-slapping, making-of type feature, but includes enough interesting stuff to pad out to over 22 minutes. It does include a breathy, over-dramatic voiceover that quickly irritates. I have never heard anyone in real life speak like this, and if this was my introduction to A Beautiful Mind I would possibly not have bothered.

Storyboard Comparisons offers both the storyboard and the final product on the one screen to add interest. There are five scenes included.

Academy Awards is a combination of the announcement of the various awards or the after-awards press interviews from most of the film's winners.

Theatrical Trailer contains some minor grain, aliasing and film artefacts in its 2:17 minutes, but is presented in a 16x9 enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio.

A Beautiful Mind Soundtrack is nothing more than an advertisement for the CD soundtrack.

  Overall  
Contract

With this many extras, a fine video and audio transfer, and a great film, most will be pleased with this "Awards Edition" release. While the story itself has been heavily dramatised and romanticised, it is the remarkable performances of the principle actors that set this film above the ordinary.


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      And I quote...
    "Despite being dramatised and overly-romanticised, this is still an intriguing story with a fine transfer and hours of extra features... "
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Akai
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
          Wellings
    • Centre Speaker:
          Wellings
    • Surrounds:
          Wellings
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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