From his working class roots, John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) has finally begun to taste success in corporate America. Supported by his beautiful wife Aileen (Keri Russell) and their three children, John is on the fast track.
But just as his career is taking off, Crowley walks away from it all when his two youngest children, Megan and Patrick, are diagnosed with a fatal disease. With Aileen by his side, harnessing all of his skill and determination, Crowley teams up with a brilliant, but unappreciated and unconventional scientist, Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford). Together they form a bio-tech company focused on developing a life-saving drug.
One driven to prove himself and his theories, the other by a chance to save his children, this unlikely alliance eventually develops into mutual respect as they battle the medical and business establishments in a fight against the system—and time.
But, at the last minute, when it appears that a solution has been found, the relationship between the two men faces a final test—the outcome of which will affect the fate of John's children.
'Extraordinary Measures' feels like a Lifetime Channel drama. It's never really engaging, but just floats around on the surface, never really showing us the anguish families with terminally ill children go through.
The Crowleys, John (Brenden Fraiser) and Aileen (Keri Russell) have two children who were born with Pompe Disease – a form of muscular dystrophy. The two kids are in constant need of medical care. The older girl, Megan is a feisty one, and doesn't seem to let her illness hold her back. Her younger brother is in a far worse state, bedridden for much of the movie.
John Crowley works at a pharmaceutical firm. Every night he spends hours researching the disease, hoping one day the cure will seemingly pop out of thing air, make his family better, and give them a happily ever after ending.
Crowley finds a scientist, Dr. Stonehill (Harrison Ford), who has spent his life trying to figure out a way to treat Pompe Disease. His problem is that he's underfunded, and spends most of his time begrudging anyone who wants his help. You see, Dr. Stonehill is a rogue scientist. He doesn't take crap from anyone. If Han Solo was a scientist trying to cure Pompe Disease, he'd be Dr. Stonehill (and he'd likely shoot first).
After a near-death experience with one of his kids, John sets off to Nebraska to find Dr. Stonehill, seeing him as the last chance for saving his children.
How much of this is based on a true story has been the subject of much debate, and is well documented in a series of Wall Street Journal articles that were later expanded into a book by Geeta Anand. While I'm sure, the real-life John Crowley is a nice guy, here he comes across as selfish. He'll stop at nothing to save his children, even if that comes as a detriment to other people's children with the same disease. Instead of realizing the greater good, John continues to undermine everything that is happening just so he can save his children. This wouldn't be a bad premise to the movie, but the film tries endlessly to make us feel bad for him.
The first half of the film is about the wrenching agony that John and his wife feel about their children's plight, the second half is about the bureaucracy of bringing a viable drug to market. As you may have guessed, Stonehill doesn't deal well with bureaucratic nonsense. His hard-nosed attitude, and his penchant for listening to music too loudly in the lab are a recipe for disaster.
'Extraordinary Measures' never quite figures out what movie it wants to be. Does it want to be the true story behind the discovery of a cure for Pompe Disease? Does it want to be an introspective look on John Crowley and how he dealt with the ordeal? Does it want to be an eye-opening pseudo-documentary about how bureaucracy is stifling the drug business? When it tries to be everything, the film spreads itself too thin, and becomes about nothing in particular. In the end the heartstrings are tugged and people cry (a lot). Like I said, that sounds like a Lifetime movie to me.
Sony's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is first-rate.
This transfer is just about as clean and clear as they come. Blacks are nice and deep, giving delineation a revealing effect that I wish we'd see on more transfers. Fleshtones are right on, and never waver. The transfer is clear of specks or blips. Lines are precise and colors are richly rendered. Fine detail on faces looks great with all of Harrison Ford's crags deeply visible. Digital anomalies are kept at a distance, even though a few instances of very light banding pop up every now and then.
Overall, the video presentation for 'Extraordinary Measures' is extraordinary. This transfer provides a subtle but noteworthy presentation.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless audio presentation accompanying 'Extraordinary Measures' isn't something you'll be using for demo material, but it does provide a wonderful soundfield for this genre.
Heavy on the talking, 'Extraordinary Measures' delivers clearly audible dialogue. Stonehill's rocking oldie music brings in the LFE every once in a while as he blasts it through the lab. The biggest no-show here is the lack of any sort of ambient noise from the rear speakers. Even in crowded laboratories or bars, it always seems oddly silent back there.
'Extraordinary Measures' hopes you'll buy into its premise because it has Harrison Ford. It isn't bad by any means, but the film ends up spreading itself too thin. If you want a movie that will attempt to extract tears from you anyway possible, then 'Extraordinary Measures' is for you. If you're a fan then you'll be pleased to hear that the video and audio are great here. I can only recommend a rental though. It's just not a movie with a lot of replay value.