Laurence Fishburne helped shepherd this Emmy Award-winning exposé from American medical history books to the small screen. Anchored in the 1973 Senate inquiry into the infamous Tuskegee Study, the film uses a flashback structure to take us back 40 years as Nurse Eunice Evers (played with honest conviction by Alfre Woodard, who also earned an acting Emmy for her powerful performance) describes how a program designed to treat syphilis among blacks in the South was twisted into an inhuman study. Evers's conscience is torn between leaving her position on principle or remaining to give the dying men what comfort she can while they are systematically refused life-saving medicine at every turn. Fishburne costars as Caleb, a easygoing but ambitious young fieldhand who discovers the cold reality of the study while courting Miss Evers. Adapted by Walter Bernstein from a play by David Feldshuh, the film rises above the TV Movie of the Week mold with a complex moral structure that eschews (if you'll pardon the expression) black and white polarities for shades of gray as the doctors' initial compromises become a lifetime of lies. Ultimately that tone becomes the most disturbing facet of the drama: doctors and nurses so enmeshed in what is tantamount to a conspiracy they can find no way out, and a government that searches for scapegoats for its own cold-blooded research. --Sean Axmaker
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