Despite its made-for-TV feel, Extraordinary Measures works on its own terms
John Crowley (Brendan Fraser) is, for the time being, the doting father of three kids. One son and a beatifically smiling daughter could go any day: Both are wheelchair-bound and on respirators, afflicted with a degenerative genetic disorder called Pompe disease.
Shaken up by another emergency-ward close call, Crowley quits his marketing job to make a pilgrimage to Nebraska and corner Dr. Robert Stonehill, a university medical researcher working out an enzyme treatment for Pompe (mostly by writing on a dry-erase board). Executive producer Harrison Ford plays Stonehill as a “loose cannon”—that is, he drives a beat-up Ford Ranger, cranks up Boomer FM gold in the lab, and scares off sources of potential research funding with his irascible prickliness.
Extraordinary Measures is best when dealing with the connection between family life and economics, personal passion and impersonal institutions (the background is mostly labs, hospitals and corporate parks). Business-savvy Crowley, frantic for a chance to save his kids, convinces Stonehill that he can raise funds for a biotech start-up to put the underfunded doctor’s theories into practice. To work toward the greater good of an expedited cure, both men will adapt—and compromise—themselves to the rules of the game. Crowley, for an infusion of corporate cash, has to forget his personal stake to talk about “acceptable loss” and pitch the “highly lucrative” potential of a possible treatment. (Extraordinary Measures, billed as “Inspired by a True Story,” has made its own compromises to screen drama—there is a real John Crowley who might basically descry his own life here, but no real Stonehill.)
This is the first release by CBS Films, and looks it. “Did you see Harrison Ford has a TV show coming out?” asked a friend who’d seen a prime-time commercial for Measures. Given the Movie of the Week lighting, the mistake is understandable. Andrea Guerra’s emotionally instructive score gunks up every crack and corner in the movie. But even while winning the generic title sweepstakes, Extraordinary Measures works according to its terms. Fraser is open and appealing, and Ford, his acting mostly isolated in the right corner of his mouth, does well enough with a secondary part. Stonehill’s curmudgeonliness is even fitting for an actor who’s evinced no visible pleasure in being onscreen for at least the past decade.