The Professor and the Madman
2019 | Ireland | 124 mins | M Violence
- Director: Farhad Safinia (feature debut)
- Writer: John Boorman, Todd Komarnicki, Farhad Safinia
- Cast: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn, Natalie Dormer, Ioan Gruffudd, Jeremy Irvine, Brendan Patricks, Adam Fergus, Jennifer Ehle
- Drama, Mystery, True Story & Biography, Historical
Oscar winners Mel Gibson and Sean Penn lead this true story about how a professor and a convicted murderer created the Oxford English Dictionary. Co-stars Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones).
The compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857 and was one of the most ambitious, and revolutionary projects ever undertaken. Professor James Murray (Gibson) took on the challenge of creating the most comprehensive dictionary ever compiled, but knew that it would take him and his team over a century to compile all known definitions. However, by “crowd sourcing” the work, that is, by enlisting definitions from people all over the world, the dictionary could be compiled in mere decades.
As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W.C. Minor (Penn), had submitted more than ten thousand words. When the committee insisted on honouring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was a convicted murderer and being held at an asylum for the criminally insane.
Penn is extraordinary in his depiction of insanity interrupted by spells of rational thought that lead only to crushing guilt. The film’s underlying theme is the search for redemption, and Penn fearlessly plumbs those depths.
Robert W. Butler, Butler’s Cinema Scene
Gibson has a solid presence with a nice hint of lively wit, while the notably astonishing Penn channels Minor’s madness and genius in intriguing parallel.
Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall