starring Brendan Fraser, Harrisonford, Keri Russell,. Meredith Droeger, Diego Velazquez, Sam M. Hall, Jared Harris and Courtney B. Vance
written by Robert Nelson Jacobs
directed by Tom Vaughan
Based on the book The Cure by Geeta Anand, Extraordinary Measures is a very moving account of two parents’ mission to find a treatment for Pompe’s Disease (a form of Muscular Dystrophy) that is slowly killing two of their three children. This is only the first or second time I have seen Brendan Fraser perform a serious adult on film. He does a reasonable job of it.
I compare Extraordinary Measures to the 1992 movie directed by George Miller, Lorenzo’s Oil (starring Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, and Peter Ustinov). The former is the true story of the Crowley family’s quest to find a cure for their two terminally ill children, while the latter is the true story of the Odone family’s quest to find a cure for their son, Lorenzo’s rare disease (adrenoleukodystrophy). As a form of muscular dystrophy that the Crowley’s contended with, Pompe’s Disease is a muscle-wasting genetic disorder. The Odone’s foe was, ALD, caused nerve damage by slow damage to the layer of insulating lipids that surround nerve cells.
Along the way both families clash with doctors and scientists skeptical that anything can be done. (I remember reading in the papers here about Lorenzo Odone’s death at the age of 30 in May 2008.)
Fraser plays John Crowley, a pharmaceutical company executive who founds his own pharmaceutical company with a researcher, Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford). While he is fairly fluent with the relevant science, Crowley - a businessman - is still a medical layman. Stonehill is an easy-to-hate anti-social researcher only interested in the science and not at all interested in business (a necessary evil) - or in human patients and people in general. Their struggle to get an effective drug made gives an interesting and frustrating window into the pharmaceutical business. It’s very disheartening to anyone interested in health care, especially health care for sufferers of incurable diseases - the sheer fortune needed to research, launch, and market a new drug; the clash of for-profit capitalism with human suffering and altruistic compassion; the laws and regulations surrounding the development, testing and marketing or new drugs. Thank goodness the story has a happy ending, otherwise I would have left this film feeling only anger, which is not what I want. As it turns out, it’s a very heartwarming family story. Watch it.