At the outset this film appeared to be channeling Les Miserables with a frantic chase through cobbled streets in torrential rain. The chase is actually one man hunting down another with a gun in his hand and a clear intent to kill. Shooting his mark dead the killer is dragged off in chains to prison.
Turns out the killer, William Minor, (Sean Penn) is actually a civil war hero with PTSD, and was formerly a surgeon. He and English professor, James Murray (Mel Gibson), in the process of compiling words for the English dictionary, meet when Minor finds a request from Murray for new words and definitions in a book that has been delivered to him in prison.
Murray has opened the search to the public and Minor decides to join the quest coming up with 10,000 words making him the largest single contributor to the English dictionary. A true story and a feat for which the real William Minor was not credited because he was deemed a madman.
The Professor And The Madman is just as ambitious as the undertaking of the compilation of the English dictionary. An A-list cast with a standout performance by Jennifer Ehle as Murray’s wife whom Murray describes as ‘the spine of the book.’
While not a great film this is a film well worth seeing.
Reviewed by Renee Lou Dallow