The Great Wall
Unlike any American blockbuster you've seen, a conservative movie with action set pieces that are actually inventive and thrilling enough to be worthwhile.
A woman called in to the Howard Stern show one morning to protest animal use in lab experiments. Stern discovered that she had a cat named (as I recall) Fluffy. She had no children. “My wish for you,” Stern said, “is that someday you have a beautiful little baby girl, and that your daughter gets a disease that can only be cured by sacrificing Fluffy. Call back and tell me how you decide.” A version of this moral dilemma lurks at the center of Michael Apted's “Extreme Measures,” making the movie more thought-provoking than thrillers usually are. At one point the hero is asked by the villain: “If you could cure cancer by killing one person, wouldn't you have to do that?” Well, would you? To the movie's credit, it sees that the question is a good deal more complex than it appears.
As the movie opens, Hugh Grant plays a young New York emergency room surgeon named Guy Luthan. He gets a patient--bald, middle-aged, naked, delusional--whose symptoms confuse him. The patient eventually dies, and when Guy goes looking for the autopsy report, he is startled to discover that the body, and all records involving it, apparently have disappeared.
Many emergency-room doctors would be too busy to follow up, especially in the case of a homeless man who probably was on drugs. But Guy can't forget the case--nor the fact that the man already had a hospital-patient tag on his wrist when he was admitted. Had this man escaped from a different hospital? Guy keeps digging, searching computer files and old records in a warehouse, despite a warning by his superior (Paul Guilfoyle) to drop the case.
We meet, in the meantime, the distinguished medical researcher Lawrence Myrick, played by Hackman. He has just been awarded a medal in honor of his work with paralyzed rats: He's found a way to regenerate their damaged spinal columns, so they can walk again. No prizes for guessing that Myrick may be connected with the mystery patient, and that he may have been working on him rather than on rats.