RELEASE DATE: 27/11/2014
RUN TIME: 1HR 39MIN
‘Particle Fever’ describes the journey of particle physicists from 2007 to 2012 and their search for what the media dubbed ‘The God Particle’ (scientists hate that term, by the way). Buried under the border between France and Switzerland is a 17-mile long tunnel, holding the largest machine ever built. This is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and its sole purpose is to help us understand the basic laws of nature. The film focuses on the quest to find the Higgs-Boson Particle, a particle smaller than an atom, that is postulated to be the one missing key to understanding the fundamentals of all matter, and if found, would open up entire new ways of understanding physics.
The documentary follows key members of research teams as they work at their universities and at the LHC, preparing to run the machine for the first time. We have interviews with the scientists (who fit right into the stereotypes you imagine), and helpful diagrams to assist in understanding the concepts they’re explaining to us. Some of the overlays seem a little kitsch, but unobtrusive and forgivable. The film does seem to pander somewhat to what the director believes laypeople expect from physicists – there are lots of lovely shots of chalkboards filled with complicated equations.
There were only two aspects of this film I had issues with: the first is that some of it felt very...staged. Most was candid, and entertaining, but there were times that felt a bit like a school play. The second is that it suffered somewhat from unpolished directing; smash cuts are jarring and distracting. The film jumps right into the science, and right into the big event, without any introduction or warm up. However, a scientist shot some of the best parts with a handheld camera; completely unprepared and real.
The real idea behind this film is the human thirst for knowledge.
We get plenty of background to the project, and as long as you have some basic understanding of science research, the material is understandable. However, if you don’t, you may struggle. You’ll hear phrases thrown around like Intelligent Design, mentions of Hindu religion, the SuSy and multiverse theories, and a smattering of politics.
However, the real idea behind this film is the human thirst for knowledge – the things that are least important for our survival are the things that make us human. There is so much in ‘Particle Fever’; so much to think about and take in, that you’re still processing it hours later.
I really enjoyed this film. But then again, I have a background in the field. The average movie-goer doesn’t, which is probably why ‘Particle Fever’ has a limited release here in Australia. The documentary was shown some time ago on the BBC in the UK, but is only reaching us now.
If you have an interest in physics, then you should get a lot out of this film. It’s accessible, educational and has one excellent message: "Jumping from failure and failure with undiminished enthusiasm is the big secret to success."