Particle Fever ***1/2 (out of five)
Access to images of within the Large Hadron Collider is the main joy of this documentary about the Collider, what it does, and what happened when its’ switch was flipped. Along the way a lot of incredibly difficult science is explained relatively well for a layperson, and, as a terrific bonus, we meet a lot of really interesting personalities from the extreme upper echelons of the scientific community.
The Collider itself is truly awesome, resembling nothing more than a James bond Villain’s lair of the mid-late Connery period, including what I will call the “pipeline”, which is just begging for a high-speed (really high speed) race through its vast, mountain-enclosed tunnels. Its immensity and complexity really gets a good showing, and it’s impressive.
What the Collider is aiming for – proving the Higgs boson (or Higgs particle) – is explained with patience but not condescension. I think I got it, and I certainly understood vastly more than I did before I saw the film, which was basically not much to nothing. I also didn’t know whether the “big moment” – the flicking of the switch, as it were – was a success or not, so the final act of the film, as we watch it happen and receive the results, was genuinely suspenseful for me, and can be for you if you go in similarly ignorant.
Along the way we meet a swathe of truly fascinating individuals who know a lot more about the universe than I do. They’re entertaining, partly because some of them are as eccentric and obsessed as you want them to be. Particle Fever achieves its goals with humour and grace. You’ll be entertained and, to whatever degree, you will not only learn something, you might have your whole understanding of the universe altered. Pretty good for ninety-nine minutes.