Based on a true story. Set around the 19th century, Professor James Murray (Mel Gibson) receives an invitation to change history by creating the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. While the Professor is honoured, it’s a massive job to complete with numerous deadlines. He will work with his team for countless hours, compiling words and entries for the books.
Soon the Professor starts to receive multiple new listings by mail from a patient in a Lunatic Asylum. This donor’s name is Dr William Minor (Sean Penn). Soon the two will not only work together to change history, but develop an unlikely friendship.
The film introduces each character at a beautiful pace. We understand why and how Dr William Minor ended up in the asylum and what crime he’s committed. Meanwhile, on the flip side, we have Professor James Murray experiencing the most significant highlight of a lifetime. Both characters are in such different positions in life, and the film had my interest as I questioned how these two would eventually work together. It’s quite a dramatic setup, but it certainly had my investment within a short period.
As you would expect, as the film progresses, there are many challenges each of our leading men face, not all of them predictable. Performances from both actors are fantastic and don’t disappoint. Naturally it’s most exciting whenever the two actors share the screen, but even when they don’t, they both bring such a tremendous atmosphere and presence to the screen.
Visually this is a pleasant film. Details and filming styles are all sharp and very clear. I also found myself admiring the costumes and set locations that were used for the film. All these elements were just beautiful to see on the big screen and they make the film feel like a work of art.
Pacing, for the most part, is positive, but I can’t deny that one or two scenes did feel a little unnecessary or that they dragged on a little longer than what I would have preferred, particularly during the second act. The film’s first act and final wrap up was significantly more robust. The film’s apparent villain or bad guy also felt a little over the top and somewhat forced. It almost felt as though he existed solely because every movie needs a villain.
Overall, I found this true story rather fascinating. Performances here are tremendous from both actors Mel Gibson and Sean Penn even more so whenever the two share a scene. The film itself is quite dramatic and profound. I have no regrets about watching it, and I found this quite a powerful movie.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden