A little motivation goes a long way in Need for Speed, a technically polished but narratively bloated and muddled adaptation of the bestselling videogame racing series of the same name, starring Aaron Paul and helmed by Scott Waugh, who previously co-directed 2012’s Act of Valor. Alternately slick and over-plotted, the movie has a couple isolated pockets of cathartic connection, but tries to awkwardly thread a too-fine needle of dumb-fun revenge and square-jawed memorialization. In its needy and needless reach for gravitas, the movie irreparably drains a lot of momentum from what could be an energizing, fun, diversionary romp. For the full, original review, from Screen Daily, click here. (Disney/DreamWorks, PG-13, 130 minutes)
Higher science and especially speculative physics dance beyond the reach of many ordinary folks, but the new documentary Particle Fever gives viewers a shotgun-seat to history that plays out on a very human, relatable plane. Director Mark Levinson’s movie — about the biggest experiment in the world, to recreate conditions immediately after the Big Bang — is a fascinating celebration of human curiosity and endeavor.
Despite being a physicist turned filmmaker, of maybe because of it, Levinson has an intuitive sense of where and how to selectively bear down and focus on scientific fact and theory. It would be quite easy for a film of this nature to get lost in the weeds, or, conversely, for it to be massaged into a sort of grand, scientific mystery and thriller, where the outcome of its research findings was the big reveal. This type of movie could be engaging, and even decently satisfying to those who’d either never heard of the Large Hadron Collider or had no notion of how its research unfolded.
Particle Fever is more nuanced than that, however; it aims for something with a higher degree of difficulty, flirting with viewers on intellectual, philosophical and, yes, even spiritual levels. Some of the material has a slightly geeky quality (Is there a physics-based rap performance at a professional conference? Yes, yes there is), but Levinson threads the emotional ups and downs of events (the film spans several years) through a number of personable and articulate subjects — aided immeasurably by legendary editor Walter Murch, who repeatedly locates small moments and pivot points amidst the academia.
Ultimately, Particle Fever is more than just a handy primer on physics and the Hadron Collider. It shows that the key to success in regards to the scientific method is in jumping from failure to failure with undiminished enthusiasm. There’s a lesson for individual life there as well. For the full, original review, from Paste, click here; for more information on the movie, click here to visit its website. (BOND 360, unrated, 99 minutes)