At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Extraordinary Measures “2010”

MPAA Rating: PG/Genre: Medical Drama/Stars: Brendan Fraser, Harrison Ford, Keri Russell, Courtney B. Vance, Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez, Sam M. Hall, Patrick Bauchau, Jared Harris, Alan Ruck, David Clennon, Dee Wallace, Ayanna Berkshire, P. J. Byrne, Andrea White, G. J. Echternkamp, Vu Pham, Derek Webster/Runtime: 106 minutes

Gosh darn it! Those annoying heartstrings are always so easy to grab aren’t they? Indeed the land of movie magic always seems to be deadset on everything ranging from gently poking them to yanking them as hard as they can in movies they release every single year. Of course to their credit movie goers do seem like they are on board with giving up their money, making their heartstrings visible from space, and insert a sign on them that says “pull me” so that way they’re ready to get all the feels. Indeed usually inspired by a true event about beating the odds and the sacrifices that are often made, the feel-good slice of cinematic pie is one that designates a genre of movie magic that is truly timeless since there is always things in the world that can beat us down and with that we need to get a heartwarming reminder every so often that perseverance and love can truly overcome all obstacles. Suffice it to say then that slices of cinematic pie like 2010’s Extraordinary Measures are ones constructed not to decimate all other movies at the box office at that time. Instead they are designed to showcase for us that, despite what we may think, there is still some good to be found in life. It is with that in mind that Extraordinary Measures is one that regales us with a narrative about the struggle to find a cure for a truly horrific illness and the fight to beat the odds in order to get a promising new drug to those who need it most. No it’s not exactly the most novel narrative in the world, but thankfully it is one that is told with just the right degree of skill on both sides of the camera to say nothing of emotional potency thus resulting in a slice of cinematic pie that is a quality movie going experience to be had by all.

The plot is as follows: Extraordinary Measures tells the story of an ordinary guy by the name of John Crowley. Mr. Crowley and his spouse Aileen we soon learn have 3 kids, but that two of them in the forms of an 8-year old little girl and a 6-year old boy have sadly been given a horrific medical diagnosis in the form of a heartwrenching ailment known as Pompe’s Disease. To that end, we see that although both kids have already beat the odds and lived longer than what is expected for someone with their ailment, reality decides to come a’calling. A call that takes the form of the little girl having yet another brush with death whilst in the hospital yet again for her illness and which, upon answering, has our intrepid hero and his wife sadly coming to realize that next time they might not be so lucky if a literal miracle is not in their corner to help them. With that in mind, we see our hero all but pack up at his job and head out on a quest to find a drug that will give his children the chance to live a long and as healthy and normal as possible life. A quest that sees him trying to find the top researcher of Pompe’s in the form of a man by the name of Dr. Robert Stonehill, with the hope that the infamous researcher can or has already discovered a cure that could benefit his kids and others like them immensely. Sadly, upon meeting the good doc, our hero discovers quite the grumpy individual. A fact that may or may not be attributed to the fact that not only is the doc overworked, not getting enough in the way of funding, but he also would need over 500k just to get his research going to begin with. It is with that in mind that we see an unlikely partnership form between the two men. One that is equal parts desire and persistence and which aims to do whatever it takes to get through the red tape and get this drug to the people who need it the most.

Right off the bat I think it is quite easy to say that Extraordinary Measures most definitely is not a movie that will have you applauding by the end nor is really that surprising in any way. Rather, this slice of cinematic pie is one that even if you possess a singular iota in regards to what this movie deals with you should be able to figure out how everything is going to wrap itself up. The issue with this however is that the voyage to that resolution is not entirely as engaging as it should be. Yeah I suppose it’s not the most difficult thing in the world to cheer on these people and the sick kids and get caught up in all the pathos. In that respect, Extraordinary Measures succeeds fairly admirably as it inserts you, the movie goer smack dab in the middle of the highs and lows of these kids and their conflict, but it does weaken a bit in the middle when the film has to go through an onslaught of both scientific jargon as well as the behind the scenes machinations that sadly yet inevitably act as road blocks towards getting medications into the hands of those who need them most. With that being said, it is in the test trials that this slice of cinematic pie is able to acquire its genuine meaning as it manages to show the movie goer how powerful persevering truly can be in getting even those things that might seem impossible accomplished. Indeed had this film made the choice to just skimp out on real life and make everything look easier then what it actually is, I promise you this film and its resolution would have suffered dramatically as a result. Thus yes I understand the middle of the movie might drag a bit, but it is nevertheless of vital importance to bringing everything about this narrative to life in a way that feels honest and real.

Now it is all but guaranteed that this kind of cinematic pie will have an effect on you in some way, but in all fairness that is also because it is downright difficult if not borderline to see a child with a life threatening illness and not feel some kind of emotion about it. Yet even with that in mind, a slice of cinematic pie like this one can’t triumph without the aid of some other components. It is with that in mind that I feel you should know Extraordinary Measures does well at constructing a narrative around this illness and filling the movie with wonderful actors. A dynamic pairing that manages to work together to make this movie an oft riveting, timely, and watchable emotional journey. Yes this movie’s true reason for existing might be to bring awareness to Pompe’s, but audiences will most likely walk away from this slice of cinematic pie wanting to make a difference in the world of disease research and that might just be the best thing this film has going for it. It also doesn’t hurt that this film is occupied by a fantastic cast that is top-flight and then some in every sense of the word. Indeed Brendan Fraser in the lead role does a wonderful job at giving us a performance that is filled with equally high amounts of both integrity and heart as the hero of our story who genuinely loves his kids with every fiber of his being and is willing to just about anything to help them beat this horrific ailment. Harrison Ford on the other hand gives us a performance that is honestly one of the best he had done at that time since at least What Lies Beneath at least a decade prior and plus this was also the first movie in that time frame where his age was not a detriment in the slightest for the role as well. Indeed Ford is phenomenal as the grumpy scientist with a curmudgeonly way of dealing with things since despite valiantly wanting to make a positive impact on the world around him has become quite crusty and cynical as time has gone by due to not being able to get funds for his work or be able to comprehend why the world cares more about the potential profits a drug could bring rather than the very genuine possibility it could make people’s lives better if not save them entirely. Yet for all the wonderful work given to the film by Fraser and Ford, I think the one performer who does better than them is young actress Meredith Droeger. Indeed the performance given by Miss Droeger is one that is refreshingly genuine and delightful as one of the children stricken with Pompe’s and she really does give a moving and truly riveting performance that honestly should give kids tragically stricken with a possibly fatal illness hope that you can have the best life possible as long as your mind is in the right place and your family is there to support you every step of the way.

All in all I think it’s safe to say that Extraordinary Measures is sadly not the best of the best when it comes to heartwarming movies. In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s more good than anything in the overall picture to say nothing of the genre of which it is a part of.  At the same time though, this film does regale us with a good narrative and it does have a trinity of top-notch performances with Fraser, Ford, and Meredith Droeger in particular do a fantastic job in their respective parts whilst also contributing a genuine decency to the narrative. There’s also a genuine integrity to the overall movie even if there aren’t that many surprises to be found therein. Be that as it may be, film helmer Tom Vaughan is still able to showcase the dynamics of the narrative on the levels that it’s supposed to whilst also conjuring up a dramatic blend between the family and the politics that is fairly well balanced and also able to not permit the necessary slowing down of the middle of the film from negating the pluses that exist in the rest of the narrative. No fans of this type of movie magic might not see this as the next iconic entry in the genre, but it does work well enough that it manages to check all the boxes whilst also giving attention to a disease that is one the scientific community most deservedly need to pay closer attention to. On a scale of 1-5 I give Extraordinary Measures “2010” a solid 3 out of 5.