Review: Gifted Hands

 Gifted Hands

TNT, Saturday, Feb. 7, 8 p.m.

With Black History Month upon us, TNT’s latest “Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation” original movie, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, does a very good job of spotlighting an unsung African-American hero.

The inspirational movie stars Academy Award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr. as brain surgeon and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dr. Benjamin S. Carson who, despite early learning difficulties and other obstacles of inner-city life, has persevered to become one of the most respected pediatric neurosurgeons in the world.

The movie opens with Carson contemplating whether to take on the nearly impossible task of surgically separating twins conjoined at the skull. As he considers the procedure, the film flashes back to Carson’s past to reveal his educational struggles as kid growing up with his brother in 1960s Detroit, raised by his single mother Sonya, played superbly by Kimberly Elise (The Great Debaters).

Despite frequent bouts of depression and her secret illiteracy, Sonya encourages her sons to read and excel in school. Young Bennie (Jaishon Fisher) — after getting a pair of glasses to correct visual problems — quickly excels in his classes and eventually finishes at the top of his class.

But in one of the more distressing parts of the film, Carson is quickly introduced to racial prejudice when his white teacher admonishes the rest of his white classmates for not besting the African-American Carson scholastically.

After graduating from high school, college and medical school, Carson marries his college sweetheart Candy (Aunjanue Ellis) and eventually ascends to become director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Children’s Center, where he struggles to balance his work and family time. After a particularly heart-wrenching family tragedy, Carson finds the inner resiliency to become the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins.

As typical with other Johnson & Johnson Spotlight original films, Gifted Hands tugs on the viewer’s heartstrings on several occasions as it unravels a story of achievement, tragedy and eventually triumph. And, as many of the movies before it, Gifted Hands turns out to be a gem of a production.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.