Saturday, August 2, 2008
Author(s): Bryce (CA)
Directed by:Tony Kaye
Written by: John Logan
Produced by:Tony Kaye, Steve Tisch, and Todd Black
Derek Luke as Charlie Pollard
Stephen Tobolowsky as Dr. Taliaferro Clark
Toby Jones as Dr. Oliver Wenger
William H. Macy as Dr. John Heller
Barry Shabaka Henley as Dr. Eugene Dibble
Angela Bassett as Eunice Rivers
Jessica Lucas as Mary Pollard
Tagline: "They're here to help, but not the kind of help you would want"
Synopsis: Between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service conducted an experiment on African-American men infected with syphilis. These men were never told what disease they were suffering from, or if it was serious, and their doctors had no intention of curing them. They were deliberately left to rot under the severe symptoms of syphilis so that their dead bodies could be used for research. This is the story of Charlie Pollard, one of the survivors of the horrific event that took place in Tuskegee, Alabama....
Charlie Pollard was surprised to see his wife of five years, Mary Pollard, in bed with another man, and even more surprised with himself when he found himself in bed with a hooker later that same night. The days that followed Charlie experienced pains that he had never experienced before. After seeking medical help, he was told to talk to Dr. Taliaferro Clark, who told Charlie about an experiment they were doing that could help him, but he would have to stay in their clinic for an undetermined amount of time.The decision wasn't that hard to make, Charlie and his wife had become distant. He no longer felt as deeply passionate about Mary as he had in the past.Thus, Charlie gladly became apart of Dr. Clark's experiments.
Years have now passed. "Cure found for major sexual diseases", was the headline that was on every newspaper in the country. Dr. Clark was eager to finally be able to help his patients, who he had grown close to. However, he was stopped by his superior, Dr. John Heller, who believed more can be learned if the experiment went on and the patients left unaware of their disease and its cure. While Dr. Clark argued over the boundaries of human rights, he was given no choice but to resign from the experiment, hoping that some day the patients he had grown attached to would be cured.
While initially Charlie's love for his wife was transparent, it had grown back to be as evident as it use to be. With every month passing, Charlie's curiosity about his love's well being grew. However, his trust for the people working in the clinic was diminishing as every month went by. Every time he wanted to leave, it was Dr. Oliver Wenger who convinced him to stay. He plagued his mind with the idea of Charlie harming the ones he loved if he left prematurely. The only ones who seemed even possible of being trusted were Dr. Eugene Dibble, who felt wrong about doing such a cruel thing to his people but needed the money, and Eunice Rivers, a nurse that manipulated patients to stay with concern and compassion, but had an agenda of her own. Mrs. Rivers felt that these men deserved what was happening to them, and believed in the experiment more than any of the other doctors.
Decades have now passed, and Charlie is still rotting in his room in the clinic. The symptoms were becoming so severe that each breathe brought a heavy load of pain inside. His mind was always playing tricks on him. He heard voices and saw people that didn't exist. His friends that he had gotten close to in the clinic were all dead, and every visit with the doctors felt like they were just eagerly awaiting Charlie's death. He has tried several times in the past to escape, but his severe pains stopped him each time. The only thing Charlie looks forward to each day is his time he gets to go outside. When he's outside many questions always flourish in his mind. Will he ever get out of here? What has the clinic really been doing? And of coarse, what has happened to his love, who he mistakingly abandoned?
What the Press Would Say
Based on true events, Tony Kaye's "Tuskegee" is much more than your ordinary asylum type drama, and it's not the type of movie that points fingers at particular groups. The heart of "Tuskegee" is a complicated look at a man's physical and mental journey through pain, suffering, trust, and dependency. While the movie shares some similarities to the popular "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest", this is a much more darker take on the asylum genre than what has been seen in the past. Tony Kaye, known most for "American History X", is able to present the story in a way that doesn't make the movie feel manipulative, and instead gives us a movie in which the controversial is replaced with complex and subtle meanings. Kaye presents a question of what is really necessary when it comes to science, and leaves it up to the viewer to decide.
Derek Luke has been able to pull off some amazing performances in some of his past works, but this role is much more complicated than his past roles. Charlie Pollard is a character whose pain turns him insane, whose decisions in trust constantly lead him into the more painful and more dark path, and whose motives grow more delusional as time passes. A character whose life is dangling on to one ideal, and one hope. This is the type of character that many actors seek, but not many can actually pull off. I would of never thought Luke would be one of those actors to pull it off, but his performance is so convincing I don't think anyone will be doubting his talents after seeing the film. I referenced "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" earlier, and while Angela Bassett's character has some of the same attributes as Louise Fletcher's character in Cuckoo's Nest, overall it's much more sinister character. Her religious justifications and motives make her seem almost as insane as Luke's character, and the way how she manipulates the patients is set up to appear as a sort of torture. It's a dynamic role that gives audiences the chance to see Bassett reach a new level in her acting career.
While controversy is a sure bet with this movie's interpretation of Eunice Rivers, I think what Tony Kaye has done is bring something new to the table. He never really strides to make a historical statement with the film, but instead provides the concept of how these major events in history can be interpreted in many different ways, which ultimately helps people understand these character's motives, drives, and logic. While I'm certain some people will not agree with what has been said by the film, I think many will agree that the theme, acting, and filmmaking are all top notch, and deserving of high recognition.
Best Director- Tony Kaye
Best Actor- Derek Luke
Best Supporting Actress- Angela Bassett
Best Supporting Actor- Stephen Tobolowsky
Best Supporting Actor- Barry Shabaka Henley
Best Adapted Screenplay