Reviewed by Chris Eberle
Stephen Hawking is a 21-year-old doctoral candidate at Cambridge when he meets Jane Wilde at a campus party. They quickly fall in love but before they can start to plan their lives together, he is diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Given two years to live, he goes into a deep depression but soon decides to make the most of his remaining time. He and Jane are married, he completes his degree and quickly becomes obsessed with finding the one single equation that “explains everything.”
- 2014, Color, Rated PG-13, 2 Hrs 4 mins
- 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio
- Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones
- Directed by James Marsh
- Violence: No
- Sex: No
- Language: No
When I watched this film I couldn’t help but be reminded of “A Beautiful Mind”; the story of John Forbes Nash starring Russell Crowe. Watching an actor with iconic talent portray a complex figure like Stephen Hawking was a wonderful thing to experience. Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for his performance and after seeing him in action, I’m not the least bit surprised. The movie is extremely well-made but even if it weren’t, I would give it five stars just for his performance. Not only does he capture the personality, he does an amazing job with the physical aspects of being Stephen Hawking. The way he holds his body in the wheel chair; the way he moves his face – you will swear you’re watching the man himself. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a more well-deserved Best Actor Oscar than Redmayne’s.
The story is much more about Hawking’s personal life and relationships than about his work. In fact, the academic parts are quickly glossed over. The chemistry between Hawking and his wife Jane is there thanks to a very skilled portrayal by Felicity Jones. She easily earned her own Oscar nomination. Like all biopics, my opinion is influenced by my desire to learn more about the person after seeing the film. I spent several hours afterward reading about Hawking. There is no doubt that this Blu-ray is a keeper; my highest recommendation.
There are two distinct presentations in use here. Most of the film is very clean and detailed with warm saturated color and solid contrast. Several scenes are filmed like a home movie with lots of grain, shaky camera technique and an even warmer palette. The effect just adds to the quality of the movie.
The DTS-HD Master Audio encode is filled with detail and lots of ambient sound effects in the surround channels. Dialog is clear and balanced to just the right level with no sibilance or chestiness. Music heightens emotion where appropriate thanks to a masterful score by Jóhann Jóhannsson.
Bonus features are pretty thin considering the vastness of the subject matter. All you get is a single 7-minute featurette called Becoming the Hawkings, audio commentary with director James Marsh and deleted scenes. This seems like a missed opportunity to me.