Extraordinary Measures

Extraordinary Measures

Director: Tom Vaughan
Starring: Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell.
Distributor: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 105 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
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Rating notes:

The extraordinary measures of the title of this film about disease and cure are those of the scientists who research in order to find cures and the business people who want to provide healing drugs (and/or those who are interested in large profit margins).

The film is based on a true story, that of John Crowley and his family, with Crowley acting as consultor for the film (and appearing in a cameo as a business executive at a finance meeting). Perhaps the subject or those like it are more familiar from television series and movies. However, a lot of audiences will be caught up by the plight of the Crowley family who have two of their three children affected deeply by Pompe Disease, a rare neuromuscular disorder (more information quickly available from Wikipedia, plus a photo of Crowley who actually looks more photogenic than the bulky Brendan Fraser who plays him).

Crowley worked in Biotechnology and his investigations led him to Lincoln Nebraska and the work of an academic scientist, Robert Stonehill. He is played with gruff introversion and workaholic prickliness by Harrison Ford, who executive produced the film.

Meeting Stonehill was not easy for Crowley and their association over the years meant many conflicts between the theoretical and the pragmatic.

However, the film shows how much time, energy and finance is required to research theories and to test them and document trials of the drugs under development. It also reminds the audience that many researchers are in love with the abstract and need to come into contact with people, especially those with the illnesses. And it also reminds us that medication is big business and discussions can focus on profits rather than the healing of the patients. (An interesting comparison is the determination of the Odone family to find medication to help their son in Lorenzo’s Oil as well as a modest British film for television, Breaking the Mould, with Dominic West as Howard Florey and the development and testing of penicillin during World War II.)

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