#1Feb 10th, 2006
In 1980, thousands of Americans were under siege by an unknown virus, destined to attack whomever it wished in a vicious, unbelievable way. The response from the government was to ignore it, the response from the primary community it attacked was denial, and the response from the doctors was puzzlement and wonder. This mix led to the deaths of thousands, and eventually millions of people, who were unwittingly victims in this plague that still sweeps the world. "And the Band Played On" marks the early struggles in this monumental epic, and the politics that all too effectively wiped out these victims.
Matthew Modine plays Dr. Don Francis, a virologist who's passion is science and is one of the foremost researchers for AIDS. Intrigued early on with this disease, and unable to answer some of the questions, Francis starts his campaign to discover the source, along with a talented and barely funded crew at the Centers for Disease Control. Because the population it attacked was gay, the Reagan adminstration turned a blind eye to the disease, not wanting to offend it's conservative religious core. And the Band Played On, and more and more people began to die.
Then toss into this mix a gay community recently empowered, afraid of the disease and yet afraid this was another attempt to subvert them. Led by Ian McKellan as Bill Kraus, who struggled against his own community to get them to stop spreading the disease. Yet they turned a blind eye, left the bathhouse open (which were a breeding ground for AIDS), And The Band Played On, and more and more people died.
And then toss into this mix a doctor bent on restoring his shattered reputation and his shattered ego by arguing with the French about discovering this retrovirus. Dr. Gallo, brilliantly played by Alan Alda, put his own needs above those affected from this disease, looking for fame and glory, And the Band Played On.
Taking Randy Shilts' groundbreaking and revolutionary book into a movie format was a challenging and daunting task. The book is thick with characters and politics, and the movie successfully touches on all major areas in the book. However, to get the most complete story, check out the originial source material. The book is still a compelling read so many years later, and if this book doesn't get you outraged, nothing will.
The film ends with an incredible touching tribute to those we lost from AIDS, from the littlest babies to the greatest celebrities, over the haunting song of Elton John's "The Last Song". The end result was our loss of Ryan White ... Rock Hudson ... Bill Kraus ... Amanda Blake ... unspoken millions ... And the Band Plays On ...