A white doctor and a black lab technician work together at a segregated hospital in the 1940s to devise a groundbreaking form of heart surgery that gives hope to infants critically short on oxygen. It sounds like a true story suitable for the feel-good treatment, but this TV movie elects to be uncomfortably honest instead.
Dr. Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman, covering his natural English accent with a thick southern drawl) realizes that new assistant Vivien Thomas (Mos Def) has the hands and mind of a surgeon despite his lack of a college education. As Thomas becomes invaluable to him, Blalock does what's necessary to keep the technician by his side, even if that means upsetting racially intolerant colleagues. But when it comes to sharing credit and granting Thomas all due respect, Blalock's liberalism has limits. Rapper-actor Mos Def is effectively understated as an unsung hero, and Rickman ably conveys his character's brilliance and ego.