NOTE: This review WILL contain several major spoilers to this film. I cannot avoid this, in order to discuss what I liked about the film. I don’t think knowing these spoilers would necessarily lessen the enjoyment of the film to a first-time viewer, but if you haven’t seen it continue to read at your own risk.
I have been a fan of Will Smith for, it seems, most of my life. I recall being a teenager when he began his rap career, as part of the duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and I enjoyed his storytelling rhymes. Then I saw his slow move into acting, with The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which I watch mostly during the first couple of seasons, but not much after that.
I really have to give him credit for the way he’s handled his career. I remember listening to an interview with him on the radio, soon after his first music video, for “Parents Just Don’t Understand”, had came out, and the DJ was saying how good it was and that Will looked like he could be an actor, and Will said he would love to do a movie. And I don’t think I would have imagined that he would have become the worldwide box office star that he is today.
For awhile now I’ve considered him my 4th favorite actor (after Nicolas Cage, Johnny Depp, and Denzel Washington), and I have seen most of films, with a few notable exceptions. I skipped Legend Of Bagger Vance, because it looked boring, and The Pursuit of Happiness, because it looked depressing. I also have yet to see I Am Legend, and I don’t know why, because that is, on paper, exactly my type of film. It’s even been showing on satellite TV, but I just can’t seem to muster the interest in tuning in to watch it.
I also skipped Seven Pounds when it came out, didn’t really know what it was about it. Then I did catch that halfway through on TV last weekend, and then watched a later showing from the beginning. And, as I type this, I just finished watching it again.
Great movie. Very thought-provoking and dramatic. It may surprise those who only know Smith from his multiple big budget summer action blockbuster, but will come as no surprise to those who saw him in his very first starring role, Six Degrees of Separation. I always knew that he was a good dramatic actor, he just hasn’t been in many films that show off that side of him (he was near-perfect in Ali, though I wasn’t as happy with that film overall).
The movie opens with Will Smith berating a blind man, played by Woody Harrelson, over the phone. Then after hanging up he breaks down, and starts smashing things in his house, as if he’s disgusted with himself for treating the man that way.
He’s Ben Thomas, an IRS Agent, who is seen seeking out and attempting to help the lives of different people. We find out that he has donated a liver to one woman, a kidney to a man, and bone marrow to a young boy. When having his bone marrow extracted, he refuses an anesthetic, so it is a very painful process. It’s as if he’s punishing himself. He also talks to confronts the blind man from earlier, in person, in a diner. With the help of a social worker, the woman he had given a liver to, he meets a woman with two kids, who is being abused by her boyfriend, and tries to convince her to leave. He eventually gives her his own house, so she can live in peace, while he moves into a cheap motel.
There’s also a storyline of him meeting a woman, played by Rosario Dawson, who is having some medical problems, she needs a new heart, in addition to being heavily in debt to the IRS, and he gets to know her, and begins a budding romance with her.
Then we discover the twist to the story: He’s not really Ben Thomas, he’s a man named Tim Thomas. A couple of years earlier, he caused a driving accident (he was texting while driving, something which I must admit that I have done a few times, but never will again after seeing this movie), which caused the deaths of 7 people, including his fiance.
They don’t explain how he got away with that, and why he’s not in jail, but afterward he vowed to atone for this by saving the lives of 7 different people, starting with his brother, the real Ben Thomas, whom Tim donated a lung to, and then stole Ben’s IRS ID in order to find others who needed help.
Rosario Dawson’s character gets worse, and desperately needs a heart transplant, so he kills himself, in order to have his heart donated to her, and his corneas donated to the blind man.
The scene where he kills himself his awesome. First, he calls his best friend, whom he made executor of his Will, in order to make sure that his organs are donated to the right people after he’s dead, and tells him that he’s doing it. Then he calls 911 to get an ambulance on the way, so that he’s not dead too long, fills a bathtub with ice-cubes, to preserve his organs after death, and gets inside
along with his pet jellyfish, which stings him, and kills him.
In the end, Tim’s brother meets with Rosario’s character, and tells her the whole story. She then seeks out Harrelson’s character, who can now see, thanks to the cornea donation from Tim, and the film ends with the two of them walking together.
Really, this is a very emotionally engaging film, even if you know the twist beforehand. Smith and Dawson have great chemistry, and all of the other actors are great, not a weak link in the bunch.
J.R. LeMar gives this film a 9 out of 10.