Extraordinary Measures is trying too hard. One scene of sick, dying children is traumatic, thematically appropriate, and gut wrenching. Putting them up in front of a large audience, preaching to the choir about their rare disease? That’s pushing it.
Everything about Extraordinary Measures screams “TV movie,” although the story, the fight for a cure, and determination is certainly worthy of a theatrical script. Brendan Fraser stars as John Crowley, a desperate father seeking a cure for Pompe, a muscle disease that is killing his two youngest children. His fight follows the predetermined path this type of true story always does, playing on the usual emotions, and ending exactly where you would expect it to.
That is short-changing the film slightly. Measures has some effective scenes. The intensity as Crowley’s daughter suffers a heart attack is superb, generating enough emotion to carry the rest of the film and understand his fight. It makes the later speech at the pharmaceutical company working on a cure utterly pointless, repetitive, and manipulative.
The script needs that presentation though to clear up generic characters who are introduced into the script on a whim, and dropped just as quickly. You could place these stock villains in any film, the cold, corporate investors and boardroom higher-ups who care more about the profits. The young college kids on the research team are pointless unless necessary for a single laugh inside a hardware store.
There is also limited involvement with Harrison Ford. He is the scientist closest to a cure, but lacks business sense. He seems angry at the world, frustrated at every turn. We learn he has two ex-wives, we assume due to his incredible work ethic, but it is never made clear. His motivations are unclear too, and we learn nothing of his history. Robert Stonehill joins the stock character category, only with more screen time.
Measures loses nearly all credibility with a number of product placements. Being a PG-rated family film, (for, get this, “a mild suggestive moment”) it must have been important to have the scene with Crowley’s kids all together playing their Nintendo Wii prominently. It seems contradictory, maybe even hypocritical, to have a film bash corporate politics, yet exploit this at times tragic story for profits, no?
Extraordinary Measures comes from Sony in an AVC encode, one that undoubtedly represents the photography accurately. Tom Vaughn’s chosen style is soft, complete with diffused, blooming lights and lackluster detail. Only in the most extreme of close-ups does this transfer exhibit strong, crisp definition. You can literally pick up the fully resolved texture on a piece of paper at 7:12, along with the ink bleed.
Establishing outdoor shots are likewise sharp, including shots of Chicago and Seattle. Outside the homes, foliage is generally well defined, if not perfectly delineated. A great shot of a park at 43:16 showcases the limitation of the photography, not the transfer itself.
Colors are natural with a hint of saturation. It keeps flesh tones in their proper state while providing just a hint of pop. A fine layer of film grain exists over the image, rarely impeding on the film’s look. The encode keeps up well, losing the battle only a few times, such as 13:06 against the wall.
If any legitimate complaints exist, they lie with the black levels, or lack thereof. This is a muted, flat film. Contrast rarely feels bright, and the lack of depth to the image is disappointing, even distracting. The entire transfer takes on a lifeless quality, and like the movie itself, feels made for TV. It robs the image of dimensionality, and seems especially disheartening here as the movie contains some fine cinematography at times.
Sony’s DTS-HD effort for this talkative drama is certainly adequate, if a bit overdone. A constant barrage of ambiance outdoors contains bird and insect calls, nearly dominating. They lack directionality, and only exist in the surrounds. It’s nice to know nature keeps itself behind the characters at all times.
Stonehill loves classic rock, typically blaring it as he does research. The mix presents it beautifully, especially “The Weight” around the 50-minute mark. The purity of the lyrics is fantastic, and it’s almost a shame it is cut off to continue the story. A thunderstorm about midway through lacks power, certainly offering limited low-end work, and the thunder sounds hot, lacking clarity.
Channel separation is merely adequate, at times barely tracking vehicles as they pass by the frame, but catching a phone thrown by Crowley as he is frustrated on the left side of the soundfield. Dialogue is well prioritized, even if the mix is a bit low on volume.
Extras a brief, the best being an interview with the real John Crowley and his fight. This includes footage of his children (who were much younger than the film depicted), and runs for a little over four minutes. A promotional making-of is as generic as they come, and nine deleted scenes (a bit over nine minutes) suffer from some dated compression techniques. MovieIQ and typical BD-Live support join some trailers as the final pieces of this disc.