Particle Fever is an excellent 2013 documentary about the scientific community’s biggest endeavor: the construction of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Over 4 years, the director films the work of a team of 10,000 scientists and construction personnel, who built the largest particle collider the world has ever seen. Part of the running time is spent on a neat and easily-understandable description of this project’s purpose, while the rest takes a narrow focus on the lives of 6 specific physicists who were at the forefront of this undertaking.
I myself have a life-long love of science. Fortunately, though, PF has an appeal that extends much further: this should be seen by anyone who was worried that the LHC might cause the Earth to end, or by people who wonder why large sums of public funding are given to such efforts. This film is a must-see for any curious soul who doesn’t understand how scientists can radically change the entire world with theories and experiments.
And, overall, this is an interesting story that has more “heart” than a list of boring numbers or scientific facts. The people you see herein are driven by a desire to understand how the universe operates, how the particles that make up our bodies work, and how to find true answers about the nature of reality. It’s even more rewarding because these people come from all backgrounds and ages, with wildly-different lifestyles and interests. As one theoretical physicist explains, some of these colleagues are from countries that are mortal enemies.
PF is beautifully-filmed. This is almost unsurprising, since the director of photography has multiple Academy Award nominations, and the multiple Oscar-winning editor worked on Apocalypse, Now, as well as the Godfather pictures. The special effects are lovely, and arranged in a way that is clear to people with no special insight into science.
The only flaws are pretty minor – a couple of scenes go on a bit too long, noticeably so. And there is little chance to hear from people who don’t understand what this international team is trying to accomplish. Sure, we get to see foolish lawmakers oppose a super-collider project in America, but we don’t witness calm, measured, thoughtful arguments against this kind of scientific work. These little issues, however, don’t detract from a movie that is ultimately smartly-constructed and stimulating and rewarding.
By the time the documentary came to a close, I had a better knowledge of the kind of massive, coordinated effort that was required to create the LCH at CERN. I understood how public interest brought greater scrutiny and pressure onto teams of people who were already working themselves to the bone. And I got to feeling the pride of knowing that the creation of the Collider – and its successful discovery of the ever-elusive Higgs Boson – was an achievement that everyone on the planet can share in.
Above all, Fever is about the things that make humans so distinct from other animals: our need and amazing ability to find out how and why we exist, our aspiration to learn more, and to do more today than we did yesterday. Some people do it through art, like movies or novels, while others do it through science or industry. And some people, like Fabiola Gianotti, get to have a successful career in art, then turn their minds toward earning a doctorate in physics and joining the most prestigious scientific project in the world.
Particle Fever will be available for rental and purchase on July 1st, through iTunes and directly through the movie’s website, ParticleFever.com. It will also be released on July 15th, through Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, Youtube, Vudu, Xbox, Sundance NOW, Sony Entertainment Network, and On Demand via all major cable/VOD providers (i.e. Time Warner, Comcast, Cox, Verizon). I think this doc is excellent, and that just about everyone should watch it, asap.
This motion picture was submitted for review to Man, I Love Films. Any filmmaker that would like their picture to be reviewed by the site should contact Dylan Fields (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kai Parker (email@example.com) with details about their picture and how they will send in their submission.