An awesome movie starring Denzel Washington
, Robert Duvall
, and Anne Heche
Denzel Washington plays John Quincy Archibald, aka John Q. He has a full-time factory job, his wife is employed as a waitress. They have one son, who looks 10.
The movie opens with them together as a family. Their car is repossessed, John is looking for a second job. Suddenly during the son's baseball game, the son collapses. They rush hiim to a hospital, and it turns out he's in heart failure. He needs a heart transplant, an operation that will cost upwards of $250,000 for total care. The problem is that his insurance won't cover it (it's an HMO, go figure), so the hospital refuses to put him on the organ donor list.
First off, everything leading up to this point makes you feel sorry for the guy, but that's a good thing. You see he's a hard worker, he's poor, and that puts a strain on his family. Everybody he talks to says that their boss/corporation/organization forbids them to make an exception. You see him going from place to place, his insurance agent can't help, his hospital requires a down payment before there can be a transplant, and he's still at least $50,000 short of a down payment. The entire time you feel as if he's alone, the world is turning its back on him. You're not sure who or what the movie is preaching about. HMOs? The cold and uncaring world? One man in the sea of indifference?
After hitting a dead end at every turn, and exhausting all his options, his wife calls home. She is sobbing, the hospital is discharging him because they think he'll never come up with the money. He rushes down to talk with the doctor, but he says the hospital and the system just won't let him.
The end result is that he pulls out a gun and takes the Emergency Room hostage. He barricades himself in, along with about 8 other people in the waiting room. He only has one demand: put his son on the transplant list. From here on, the police show up, the press get involved, and you feel touched as this drama continues.
I don't really like dramas, but this movie is probably one of the best. You feel really bad for the guy, and things are in motion that are life and death, but entirely beyond his control. Denzel puts on an amazing performance, he comes across as completely sincere, crying over his son's condition. There is this whole theme of him being a vigilante versus a hero.
The film has some scenes that are slow and full of emotion, every so often there's a punctuation of action, but the suspense stays pretty constant and thick throughout. There is comedy, as the hostages come through with personalities. It's like in Speed, but the hostages have more depth, and say more.
I've heard it compared to 15 minutes in ways. This guy is trapped himself, so he takes hostages. The police are instead trying to take him out with a sniper, and the demonic TV stations get in the way, like Die Hard.
Roger Ebert boldy predicts that this movie may take the Oscar for Best Picture. To paraphrase: LOTR probably won't win because the academy doesn't favor fantasy movies. A Beautiful Mind would be next in line, but the movie is sorta marred by the fact that there are some inaccuracies in the history portrayed, in order to make a better plot. The Academy prefers "emotional" "dramatic" movies, and John Q might just take the cake.