Extraordinary Measures

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So it’s come to this. From Indiana Jones to the maverick scientist in a glorified disease-of-the-week movie, Harrison Ford may well be easing towards career twilight. Luxury casting is primarily what differentiates this true-life drama from afternoon-TV filler, but, to be fair, the real-life Crowley family have a remarkable story to tell.

A sales exec for a pharmaceuticals giant, John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is married with three kids, and would be living the all-American success story except that his two youngest suffer from a rare neuromuscular syndrome called Pompe’s disease, which gravely curtails their life expectancy. Refusing to sit and watch his kids die, he seeks out medical opinion in the hope of developing a treatment: in actuality, various people were involved, but the film reduces it to Ford’s surly individualist Dr Robert Stonehill, whose theoretical discoveries lead the field, but remain untested.

Scottish director Tom Vaughan’s approach extracts the obvious emotional impact from plucky but seemingly doomed kids and their frantic parents without ever overdoing it, and the same goes for the cast, who do the necessary but keep it relatively tasteful. Stolid competence reigns throughout, though as a chronicle of against-the-odds medical endeavour, the whole thing proves slightly superficial and dramatically rather less arresting than, say, ‘Lorenzo’s Oil’.

What does emerge, however, is a useful chronicle of the process of getting any medicine from lab to patient, a process powered by the profit motive, of course. So, the story pits a father’s desperation against the clinical objectivity of the corporate pharmaceuticals industry (Jared Harris is excellent as a stern-hearted suit), though, perhaps surprisingly, never quite bows to sentimental gush in its assessment of the close relationship between big money and progress. Moderately illuminating in parts, but the clichés of cinematic suffering tend to overwhelm it.

Release details

Rated: PG
Release date: Friday February 26 2010
Duration: 106 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Tom Vaughan
Cast: Harrison Ford
Brendan Fraser
Keri Russell

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

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RuthW

Wonderful - emotional film. Good characters - of course it is based on a true story..