dev patel

Film Review: “The Man Who Knew Infinity” is a formulaic biopic of a math genius

A solid cast including Dev Patel, Jeremy Irons, and Toby Jones can't elevate this by-the-numbers biography.

Biopics in general can fall into ruts of rote storytelling and textbook-like recitations of facts, but the direst subsection has got to be biopics about scientists and mathematicians. Movies about athletes, actors, musicians, and statesmen at least have their public performances, political victories, or personal sordidness with which to entertain us. But scientists, unless they were totally bonkers or otherwise fascinating (“A Beautiful Mind”), tend to have precious little in their biographies to inspire anything more than admiration.

Case in point: “The Man Who Knew Infinity,” a serviceable but unremarkable movie about a mathematician who undoubtedly deserves to be honored–especially since racism and colonialism prevented him from being acknowledged in his lifetime.) His career, though, simply doesn’t make for stimulating cinema–at least not in this telling of it, by writer-director Matthew Brown, adapting Robert Kanigel’s 1991 book. It has the feel of a term paper submitted by a student who’s a smart writer but only covered the topic because it was assigned to him.