Movie Review: Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson Story

BenCarsonThumbby Brad Nelson   12/11/13
The film is titled “Gifted Hands,” but I’m afraid I’m not gifted enough to do this movie justice. But I’ll struggle to do my best just as Ben Carson did and does.

This film has three main overlapping themes: 1) Neurosurgery, 2) Commitment to Excellence, and 3) Faith. That seems simple enough.

But I just read a review of this movie at, and some seem to think that this is “ER” without the pretty Hollywood faces. But if you watch this movie and think it is about medicine and hospitals, you’re not awake. You need to watch again.

True, this film does feature the miracle of brain surgery as Carson and his team attempt to separate conjoined twins. And these aspects are thoroughly engrossing, but a relatively minor part of the film. And as for whether or not the surgery was successful, I’ll leave that to you to find out for yourself.

First and foremost this is a movie about a man whose mother didn’t allow him to become a slug, a thug, or anything other than what he was capable of. And although her own story is often heartbreaking — she had every reason to throw in the towel — Mrs. Carson (played wonderfully by Kimberly Elise) does no such thing. Although a single mother, she is not willing to give up on her sons and, finally, on herself. Whatever victimology is offered now to blacks (or to anyone), she either didn’t buy into it back then or it was not then offered for sale as it is now in such great quantities. Watching this movie, you will have great pity in your heart for the legions of potential Mrs. Carsons out there who never make it simply because they are undermined by a welfare state that does what it can to keep them dependent upon politicians.

You can’t watch this movie and not realize just how much the welfare state and the Democrat Party have done to undermine the kind of gumption this mother has. First off, she forbids her two boys to watch more than just a few select programs on TV. And at one point she decides that the kids will be required to read two books per week and to do a book report on them — even though she herself couldn’t read.

Momma was not raising her children to be coach potatoes, welfare moochers, or (sadly these days) subtle racists by supposing that someone else owed them a living. She demanded that her kids work hard, study hard, and make use of their god-given talents.

Watching this movie with the backdrop of today’s black culture (or white culture, for that matter), we see all of the answers for what ails us. It’s about personal character and responsibility, about valuing yourself, and about being honest with yourself. And, in contrast, we see all of the forces of society today doing what it can to push everyone (kids and adults) in the opposite direction to dependency, despair, and dissolution.

Today’s culture offers the same old failed, blame-somebody-else prescriptions. It makes excuses and doesn’t ask for excellence. It actively pushes us to mediocrity (aka “equality”) and calls this “compassion.” And because people quite naturally will tend to avoid work if there are excuses available, it’s a poison to the human soul — but it’s great politics if you have no soul yourself. May we all have a Mother Carson in our lives and few, if any, Barack Obamas.

No doubt Dr. Ben Carson is of more value to his patients. But this man really should run for president. We need people like him in all areas of society, men of integrity, good faith, and the desire for excellence.

And Ben Carson was a man of faith. He had good reason for it too, for in this film he admits that he wasn’t born perfect. He had a temper, among other things, to overcome. And he prayed that he could. Fortunately, his mother never cared one bit about his “self esteem” and instead demanded that he quit getting F’s. She demanded that he do better. And like any kid, little Ben Carson didn’t like that because, well, work is hard. It takes away from TV time. But instead of handing out “compassion,” Mrs. Carson instilled in her son the drive to be something other than a liar, a couch potato, a fighter, or a thief — all of which are considered honorable professions by the Democrat Party and much of the rest of the culture  today.

But ultimately this movie is absurd, at least that’s how it struck me. We have lived so long in the culture of vulgarity, stupidity, and everyday monstrosities such as abortion that a film such as this will definitely strike you as out-of-date, out-of-touch, and more than a bit out-of-the-mainstream.

But it is actually we who are living in the absurd times. We’ve simply gotten used to it. Unlike Mother Carson, we have accepted excuses and mediocrity. We have listened to the liars and ignored our own consciences. And if you have grown up into today’s vulgarized culture, it will surely strike you as absurd to see entire teams of doctors, and their oodles of high-tech equipment, assemble to fight for the lives of just two conjoined babies. As my brother noted facetiously, “Why not just dump these babies in the dumpster? That’s what Planned Parenthood would do. That’s what liberals would do. That’s what Progressives think is some kind of grand right.”

Instead, you see people working their hardest to fight for these two precious babies. In our world of today, this is truly absurd and makes no sense. We have so devalued life with our stupid slogans (such as “A woman’s right to choose” or “Keep you rosaries off my ovaries”) that we have become monsters. I think that watching a movie such as this in which there is such plain decency on display would be disconcerting to many.

But Ben Carson is no monster. He is the exact opposite. And his “compassion” isn’t skin-deep as in mouthing trending political slogans. He bucked up. He worked hard to overcome obstacles. And he made something of himself. And it is not so much that he became a famous surgeon. It is that he became a good man. The story might have not been as dramatic, but it would have been the same great story if he had become only a successful street sweeper. The man carried a measure of goodness that today few know how to relate to, assuming they even know that such a thing exists.

You can watch the entire movie on YouTube. I suggest that anyone who considers themselves on the Left do just that. They need to reacquaint themselves with their own humanity. And Cuba Gooding Jr. does an exemplary and understated job of playing this good and gifted man: Gifted Hands: The Benjamin Carson Story • (6182 views)

Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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4 Responses to Movie Review: Gifted Hands, the Ben Carson Story

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Robert Heinlein referred in some of his books to the “crazy years”. It was a different timeline from ours, but the term still fits all too well.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I haven’t watched them yet, but my brother says the special features on the DVD are really good. Some good interviews with Dr. Carson.

      I thought about you the other day regarding alternative realities. I was watching the Twilight Zone episode, The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine. It’s about an aging, Norma Desmond-like movie star who longs for the past.

      She would have been perfect for this site. Perhaps she can be our Patron Saint. Miss Trenton finally gave up on the present and decided to live in the 1930’s when things were grand. And this is my prescription for our present problems. We must, in order to retain our sanity, disengage to some extent from our poisonous culture of today.

      It’s a great theme, shades also of “The Purple Rose of Cairo.” But when we vote into office a present of the United States who twice voted for infanticide, and who lies to us at every turn, we truly live in a world that we should escape even as we try to figure out ways to change it for the better.

      But it’s no longer enough to be a weak, enfeebled Paul Ryan and say “Well, I have worked side-by-side with probably the dumbest person in the Senate, Patty Murray, in order to find common ground.” (Not his exact words.) Instead of working with these fools, we need to defeat them. We need to offer clear choices. We need to disengage from their agenda instead of helping it along with half measures.

  2. Ron Nelson says:


    My only hope is that there is a remnant of goodness left in the heart of our nation and some of its people. Dr. Carson and people like him give me a sliver of hope for our future. But in all honesty, I think we are screwed. 55,000,000 unborn babies butchered in the womb on our watch will be accounted for. I think we are seeing the birth pangs of God’s disfavor and judgment even today.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ron: Much like what developed around slavery, there is a corrupt system that has developed around abortion, led first and foremost by the Democrat Party. They are more than content to trade babies for votes and package this monstrous reality as “women’s health.” It is deceit, coming and going. One would assume that this “women’s health” would be killing very young women who, statistically speaking, would be about half of all unborn babies killed by abortions. How’s that for health?

      And on the other side of this unholy transaction are people who are engaged in what can only be called a modern sex cult (and that includes many libertarians as well who profess to be on the right). They are given by their party and the state a sort of middle ages Indulgence to engage in any kind of sexual behavior they want without paying a price. Someone else pays the price, of course: the unborn babies.

      It is my unvarnished contention that to vote for the Democrat Party is to vote for evil. It doesn’t even matter if your particular candidate is less dodgy than most. To vote Democrat is to vote for the party of abortion.

      But that in no way gets the Republicans off the hook. As I believe you had showed me (via some article or book), the political right is full of people who are “anti-abortion” but are not for the abolition of abortion. And that’s a big difference. To be anti-abortion without being for its abolition is to try to have one’s cake and suck its brains out too, to mangle an old saying, but appropriately so. These types of Republicans are just as evil as the Democrats. There are many Catholic politicians (of either party) who profess to be anti-abortion but not in any meaningful way. If there is a God of judgment, do they suppose He is fooled by this?

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