Plot: What’s it about?
I’ll be the first to admit that I knew hardly nothing about Stephen Hawking other than he authored A Brief History of Time and was confined to a wheelchair. Other than that…that’s it. Then again relative and/or theoretical physics has never really been my cup of tea. And, to further prove my point, when The Theory of Everything first came out, I really had no idea that it was about Mr. Hawking and his earlier years. Evidently I need to get my head out of the clouds (or stars in this case) and pay attention, eh? Having said that, it’s always tricky to do a film biopic about a living legend. What I mean to say is…you need to get it right! And so they did. In fact, this film was made with Hawking’s seal of approval, so to speak.
We meet Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) as he’s working on his doctorate at the University of Cambridge. Shy, awkward and a bit on the nerdy side, he notices Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) and the two start a courtship. It’s not long after the two start dating that Hawking is diagnosed with a neurological disease (what we know as ALS). He’s given two years to live. He and Jane are married and have a child, but amazingly enough he continues to live. As the years pass, two more children come along and Hawking is now relegated to a wheelchair. Having lost his ability to speak, and Jane’s wits on the brink, some help is brought in. The story follows that of Hawking, his work, his life and his lifelong friendship with Professor Sciama (David Thewlis).
If in the wrong hands, this movie could have been a disaster. Actually I’m wondering if this film could have been made if it was nothing short of perfection, since Hawking’s blessing was required. The film paints an interesting portrait of Hawking’s life and all the trials and tribulations that he had to go through, in addition to having ALS. He’s defied the odds for nearly six decades and continues to be at the forefront of theoretical physics. With a strong cast that includes Felicity Jones and Academy Award winner Eddie Redmayne, we’re also treated to Emily Watson and David Thewlis who rarely disappoint. While not the easiest movie to watch, it’s well-made, expertly directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire) and should serve as a testament to one of the smartest men who ever lived. Recommended.
Video: How’s it look?
There’s a lot going on in this movie, visually-speaking. While the 2.40:1 AVC HD image looks fantastic throughout, it’s clear that the filmmakers had a bit of fun from time to time with the way it looked. The “romantic” scenes between Hawking and Wilde are warm, with a bit of soft focus and a very colorful palette. There are some other shots of Hawking in pain and despair that are either stark white or with hues of green, blue or even grey to them. Visually, it’s a delight to watch at times and hard at others. Still, detail exceeded expectations as this transfer certainly delivers the goods.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has its moments, for sure. I will say that I was a bit impressed at some of the sequences in which the orchestra took charge. It’s a nice change of pace from what I was expecting. Dialogue sounds pure, resonating out of the center channel. I don’t think the majority of the world has even heard Hawking talk, so it’s a bit strange to picture him with an English accent as we’ve all been accustomed to hearing the computer synthesized voice. There’s nothing too exceptional about the soundtrack, but it’s got a few moments as well – a nice job.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director James Marsh has a LOT to say and while informative, it’s nearly too much to handle. There’s the obligatory bits about the casting and locations, but there is a ton of information on Hawking and the story in general. It’s packed to the gills with facts and tidbits here and there, but you’ll really need to pay attention and perhaps even take notes!
- Deleted Scenes – Eight in all with optional commentary.
- Becoming the Hawkings – We get a few comments from the real Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde as well as some insight from actors Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne.
- DVD/Digital HD Copy
The Bottom Line
With all due respect to Michael Keaton, the Academy got it right with this one. Eddie Redmayne’s performance was truly a work of art. That’s the sort of performance “they” look for as opposed to a self-obsessed actor trying to reclaim his former glory (I’m referring to Keaton’s character, not Keaton himself). The story is solid and well told with great performances all around. Top notch visuals and a smattering of insightful extras add to what’s already a good package.