Very few movies accurately depict either research-based advances in life-saving surgery OR the deadeningly real impacts of racism on life, mind, and spirit. To see these two themes intertwined with such ferocious dramatic impact in a film is nothing short of amazing. Yet here it is.
Alan Rickman and Mose Def play a white surgeon and a black lab assistant who develop a partnership that evolves over 30 years to include the development and introduction of a groundbreaking heart surgery procedure.
The movie is unblinking in its depiction of the emotional and psychological devastation that racism wreaks on individuals. Lives are wasted, talents are undeveloped, and society is reduced overall. Yet this story is not sugar-coated. We want to look away when we are faced with the facts of the matter, yet the camera will not let us.
Yet, through this all there is the thread of the drive to advance knowledge and save lives, and that is what pushes these two main characters forward.
A dramatically effective device occurs at the end of the movie. Throughout the film a recurring theme is a discussion of the contributions made by famous surgeons and researchers enshrined in large public portraits that hang in the main hall of a world famous research institution where the two main characters worked. At the end of the movie, we see the two main characters in the movie, as played by Alan Rickman and Mos Def, appear in similar paintings. Then these two paintings morph into the real paintings of the real characters portrayed in the movie. Once again underscored is that what is portrayed in this film actually happened.
Copyright (c) 2007 by Dennis D. McDonald