In the surprisingly effective Extraordinary Measures, two action-movie stars face an insurmountable foe, and just about every step they take is met with resistance and difficulty. For Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) and Brendan Fraser (The Mummy), this is nothing new. But what is new is the villain, which is more deadly and dangerous than any they've ever faced.
It's called Pompe disease, and it's a rare genetic disorder in which the inability to break down glycogen (loosely, this is a sugar naturally produced by the body for energy) causes muscle weakness throughout the body, affecting the skeletal muscles, diaphragm, nervous system, liver and heart. It often afflicts children and is similar to other muscular disorders such as Lou Gehrig's disease.
For John Crowley (Fraser), the disease has been devastating. Two of his children, Megan (Meredith Droeger) and Patrick (Diego Velazquez), suffer from it, and it will soon be the cause of their deaths if Crowley isn't able to get them help. His search leads him to Dr. Robert Stonehill (Ford), who believes he's found a way to treat the disease but lacks the funding to complete his research.
And so Crowley and his wife, Aileen (Keri Russell), lead a fund-raising campaign in a race against time, and the story takes off from there with family drama, corporate greed and plenty of close calls. There's a fair amount of medical jargon thrown around, but director Tom Vaughan never gets lost in the science--this is a human story first and foremost, and Vaughan does a nice job of creating energy and suspense without letting the film get too melodramatic.
Vaughan should also thank Fraser and Ford for their fine performances. Each has successfully done drama before, and the experience shows. Fraser (Crash) never goes over-the-top desperate-dad crazy, a smart move given that Crowley's business sense has a lot to do with saving his children. And Ford (Regarding Henry) may do a lot of yelling here, but Stonehill is always a likeable old crank with a good heart.
Touching as it is, Extraordinary Measures is not easy to watch. Parents will especially have a hard time seeing Megan and Patrick suffer, and the frustrations of corporate bureaucracy--though smart from a business perspective--are infuriating in that they contradict the best interests of the children.
Ultimately, though, the movie, which is based on a true story, is rewarding and uplifting. It should also serve to heighten awareness of Pompe and numerous diseases similar to it, and in doing so, may help save the lives of afflicted children. Fraser and Ford have given us plenty of bang for our buck in the past, so kudos to them for bringing to life a story with meaning and heart.
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