On the heels of the phenomenally successful film "The Blind Side" and in the vein of inspirational dramas based on true stories like the Academy Award nominated films "Erin Brockovich" and "The Pursuit of Happyness" comes "Extraordinary Measures," which beyond delivering a powerful and uplifting story features commanding performances from its two leads, Brendan Frasier and screen legend, Harrison Ford. The film is based on the book "The Cure" by Geeta Anand and chronicles the true story of John Crowley and was a pet project of Ford's ever since he read the Wall Street Journal article that the book was based on. Ford along with producers Michael Shamberg and Stacy Sher were looking for material to produce for Ford to star in when they came across the article. Ford and his team decided that it was the perfect material to produce into a film and they weren't wrong. The screenplay by Robert Nelson Jacobs is first rate and features some great back-and-forth dialogue for Frasier and Ford to play off of each other with. The material is heartbreaking yet heartwarming at the same time and features wonderfully rich characters for the actors to sink their teeth in to.
The film begins by introducing us to the Crowley family. John Crowley, portrayed by Brendan Frasier in his best performance to date, is a biotechnology executive whose two youngest children are afflicted with Pompe disease, Glycogen storage disease type II or acid maltase deficiency as it is also known as, and are not expect to live past the age of eight. Although he's well paid at work, we can tell that the stress of caring for two children with this terrible disease is putting a strain on John and his wife Aileen, excellently played by Kerri Russell. After their daughter has an episode and is hospitalized the doctors warn the Crowley's that their daughter may pass away soon and it could be a "blessing" in disguise for them. This infuriates John and acts as a wake-up call for him in regards to how he should handle his children's disease. After his daughter makes a miraculous recovery John sets out to find research scientist Robert Stonehill played with grace and class by the great Harrison Ford.
Stonehill is an expert on the disease and believes that he can create a drug to stop the spread of the Pompe and save John's children's lives. However he will need funding in order to research and make the drug. With his children's lives on the line, John quits his job so he can work full-time to find the investment capital to start a research company so Stonehill can create the drug. Refusing to take "no" for an answer John eventually secures the money so Stonehill can begin his work. With the research being slower than Stonehill predicted, money running out and Stonehill's eccentric personality wearing thin on John, he sells the company to be merged with a larger corporation in order to get the drug made. Not pleased with the deal, Stonehill goes along with it although it begins to put a tear in his and Crowley's relationship. With the drug ready for testing, John's invested emotions rubbing some of the other executives the wrong way and time running out for his children, John will stop at nothing to make sure that his kids get to test those drugs first, something that the company will not allow due to public relations. Now John will need to make things right with Stonehill and earn back his trust if he has any chance of getting that drug and saving his kids.
Although, Ford's character of Stonehill is fictional and is a compiling of several doctors and scientists that helped the Crowleys, Ford's performance is none-the-less impressive. With a powerful quietness and a gravitas when he appears on screen, Ford was able to bring an element of urgency to the role. Ford's Stonehill is sort of like a lost-hippie and Ford plays it well. He has no personal life, works late hours and marches to the beat of his own drummer. Ford feels at home with some of Stonehill's more blue-collar past-times such as drinking beer, listening to the Grateful Dead and bass fishing. It actually played in perfect contrast to his character's over-intellectual profession. Ford is so relaxed and brings an element of lightness to some of the scenes, which is very refreshing. We remember Ford so much for his action work in "Air Force One," "The Fugitive," "Patriot Games," "Blade Runner" and the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" series of films that we forget he is one hell of a dramatic actor. I think that is a trap Clint Eastwood fell into at one point in his career. Ford has a string of fantastic dramatic performances to his credit including "Witness," "Frantic" and "The Mosquito Coast," and I think you can add this film to that list. Ford really is one of our finest actors and it is a pleasure to see him having fun with this character. You can tell that he was passionate about the movie and the subject matter as it shines through his performance.
Kerri Russell first came to fame on TV's "Felicity" but the actress caught my eye in the film "The Upside Of Anger" and gives just as strong a performance here, proving that she is an actress worthy of leading roles in films. Brendan Frasier, who has been in the film business for a long-time, has always had a reputation as more of a solid movie-star than he has for being a great actor but in this film, where his character really is the main focus, gives an outstanding performance worthy of recognition. You absolutely believe his version of Crowley, a desperate man willing to do anything to save his children. You see and believe the desperation in Frasier's eyes and revel in the joy he has when he succeeds. It's also just a lot of fun to watch Frasier, best known for his role as adventurer Rick O'Connell in "The Mummy" films, go toe-to-toe with Indiana Jones himself, Harrison Ford. The two actors have some great scenes together, both as allies and as adversaries.
Finally, director Tom Vaughan does a good job of keeping the science clear and leaving room for the emotional drama of the film to build without ever feeling like a TV-movie-of-the-week. In the end, the film features a truly inspirational human story and has great performances from its cast, especially Ford and Frasier who are at their best here. This film is perfect for anyone who goes to the movies to share a human experience with other audience members and learn something about the world that they might not have already known. Rest assured that Extraordinary Measures is definitely an extraordinary kind of film!