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Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story is a 2009 television drama film directed and co-produced by Thomas Carter, written by John Pielmeier, and starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Kimberly Elise and Aunjanue Ellis. The film is based on the life of neurosurgeon Ben Carson from 1961–1987. A Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation, the movie premiered on TNT on Saturday, February 7, 2009. Its title was reused from a 1992 direct-to-video documentary about Carson released by Zondervan and the accompanying book, written with Cecil Murphey.

Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
DVD cover
Written by John Pielmeier
Directed by Thomas Carter
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
Kimberly Elise
Aunjanue Ellis
Theme music composer Martin Davich
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) tagalog
Producer(s) Dan Angel
Thomas Carter
Cinematography John B. Aronson
Editor(s) Peter E. Berger
Running time 90 minutes
Production company(s) The Hatchery
Sony Pictures Television
Original network TNT
Sony Pictures Television
Original release
  • February 7, 2009 (2009-02-07)

Gooding Jr. was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie. Carter was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Television Film. The film additionally received a Critics' Choice Television Award nomination for Best Movie/Miniseries and four Creative Arts Emmy Award nominations.



In 1987, Dr. Ben Carson travels to Germany to meet a couple, Peter and Augusta Rausch, who have twins conjoined at the back of their heads. Dr. Carson believes he might be able to successfully separate them, but realizes that he also risks losing one or both of them. After explaining the risk, and despite that fact, Ben agrees to operate.

During the four months he spends researching and formulating a plan to increase his chances of a successful surgery, the film shifts back to 1961 in Detroit, Michigan, when 11-year-old Ben Carson is failing school. His single mother, Sonya, who had but a third grade education, is distressed about her sons' academic failures and decides to do something about it. First, she requires Ben and his older brother Curtis to learn the multiplication tables, and unbeknownst to them, checks into a mental institution to battle depression. When she returns, she realizes that her sons are watching too much television, deciding to restrict them to only two shows a week and requires them to read two books a week and write reports on them, which frustrates the boys but they soon become hooked on a television quiz show. She hides from them the fact that she does not know how to read the reports.

Ben and Curtis soon begin to love reading and learn many things from the world of books, so that within one year Ben goes from the bottom of his class to the top. But Ben has an uncontrollable temper which climaxed in high school when he nearly killed a friend over changing radio stations. Fortunately for his friend and for Ben, his knife hits his friend's belt buckle and breaks. Shocked, Ben runs home and cries out to God to take away his temper. This experience changes his life.

After hard work and strong determination, Ben receives a scholarship to Yale University, where he meets his future wife, Candy Rustin, who supports him in his struggles to get through Yale. After studying neurosurgery, he is accepted as a resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he is faced with a dilemma that could end his career – operate on a dying man without permission or supervision, or let him die. He takes the risk and saves the man's life.

In 1985, after Dr. Carson's mother joins the family in Maryland, Candy is rushed to the hospital where she miscarries their twins. Dr. Carson stays with her all night until the next morning when he does a rare procedure, a hemispherectomy, in which he removes half the brain of a four-year-old who had been convulsing 100 times each day.

The film then returns to where it began: the year 1987, when Dr. Carson is preparing for a risky surgery to separate the twins conjoined at the head. With four months nearing an end, Ben still cannot figure out one final component of his plan. His mother encourages him that he can save the twins. Then he gets an inspiration and confidently prepares for the operation. After about 22 hours into the procedure, Dr. Carson and his team of doctors manage to separate the baby twins, saving two young lives. He tells the emotional and grateful Peter and Augusta that the surgery was a success. The film ends with him surrounded by cameras and microphones in a press con.


Critical receptionEdit

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Hal Boedeker of The Orlando Sentinel said of the film, "It's the perfect movie for a country challenged by its new president to do better."[1] Ray Richmond of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "The film is so good that a little immodesty is not only acceptable but understandable."[2] Audiences enjoyed the film as well, receiving a 7.8/10 rating on IMDb.[3]

Among its detractors, John Maynard of The Washington Post stated, "It is a treacly, plodding affair stunted by awkward transitions and a syrupy soundtrack".[4]


External linksEdit