Mind Games

Simply fabulous!

Genius is always a story worth telling. But telling it ingeniously is what awards it an audience.

The true-life narrative of an erratic young man who imagined an idea that was to fuel economic and political thought in the coming century, this is the compelling tale of John Forbes Nash, otherwise known as "the mysterious genius from West Virginia".

In 1947, a batch of highly intelligent young men were admitted into the Ivy League of Princeton, all of whom had visions of greatness. Nash (Russell Crowe), a student of Mathematics, however, had visions of another kind that were fuelled by the singular goal of developing an idea so original, the likes of which had not been dreamed of before. Penciled formulae on the panes of his window, a protracted absence from class in pursuit of his "original idea", the inability to fraternize - all presaged the birth of something great.

A roommate that often pulled him out of bouts of depression and introduced him to the curative effects of shots of alcohol, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany) was the antithesis of Nash, effervescing with a youth and gaiety that he never knew.

An amorous encounter in a pub gave Nash the first clear indication of the theory he was to build - the "game theory". The brilliance of this alone propelled him into a career, landing him a prestigious research and teaching post at MIT.

This was where he met a comely student, Alicia (Jennifer Connelly), who, in spite of his obvious misgivings in the subtle art of courtship, went ahead and became his wife. He would have probably led the pleasant life of a married intellect, who suffers from intermittent rounds of eccentricity, but he was earmarked for greatness.

Nash was always secretly anxious to be part of the intelligentsia that aided military strategy in America, as in the Second World War, and was awarded his private whim when a secret agent from the government, William Parcher (Ed Harris), approached him to be part of a classified team trying to break Russian war codes.

This engagement yanked him into a world that was besieged with risk and hazard but contained chiefly the mathematics of numbers. Growing increasingly afraid of his own shadow, he was finally unceremoniously admitted into an asylum, where he was diagnosed with an advanced case of paranoid schizophrenia. The story goes on to detail his mentally painful disorder and the arduous course he was to follow to regain an ounce of normalcy. That he does eventually return to his long abandoned work on game theory, setting himself among the familiar environs of Princeton and going on to win the Nobel Prize in 1994, is the proverbial clincher to a truly evocative story.

Free from frills and the excessive accoutrements reserved for inducing heightened drama, this film has it all - a stupendous cast, spearheaded by the unbelievably convincing Crowe, who evinces an unusual character riddled with all his idiosyncrasies; moving cinematography and a screenplay with the right rations of emotion and acuity. Adhering to the elemental formula of telling a tale simply, this movie aces in all attempts. A beautiful mind makes for a beautiful film.

This article was first published on 21 Feb 2002.