It is the 1930s in the deep South, and Vivien Thomas (Mos Def), who always dreamed of becoming a doctor, has just been fired from his job as a carpenter. Hired to clean the lab cages for the arrogant Dr. Blalock (Alan Rickman), Vivien quickly demonstrates a rare affinity for medicine and a knack for making improvised surgical instruments. Blalock appreciates his unusual skills and takes Vivien with him when he moves to Johns Hopkins University, where, together, they work to save dying "blue babies."
It's been a long time since a movie touched me this much. This Emmy-winning HBO film is simply outstanding in every way; the script, based on a true story, is exciting and the actors are all excellent. I got the movie because of Alan Rickman, but it is Mos Def who is the real star. He gives a powerful performance as an idealistic young man hobbled by the injustices of segregation who perseveres to become a respected scientist. Though Vivien never attended college, he helped plan and assisted in the world's first heart bypass surgery to correct blue baby syndrome in 1944.
The Jim Crow era is recreated well, creating a cruel and hopeless world; it is nothing short of amazing that Vivien accomplished all he did. This is an exceptional movie, guaranteed to have you reaching for the tissues. Highly recommended.