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At the end of January 1963, 21-year old Stephen Hawking, a young Theoretical Physicist, listened carefully to the words of a senior neurologist as he explained that within 2 years, Stephen would be dead. He had been diagnosed with ALS - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or motor neuron disease.
Hawking is a recored of the next 2 extraordinary years culminating in one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of any age. Like the discoveries of Galileo, Darwin and Einstein, Hawking's book 'A Brief History of Time' changed the way we think about our universe and ourselves.
More importantly, Hawking is an emotional and tender story - one of love, ambition, pride and sacrifice. It is a record of human behaviour at it's most extreme limits as we witness the prospect of death nearly destroying, and then transforming, Stephen Hawking.
I have known of Stephen Hawking due to my interest in Quantum Physics, and his contributions to that field through Theoretical Physics. However, all I really knew of him was that he has spent most of his life in a high-tech wheelchair and has a brain on him which would modestly be considered as one of the greatest minds of our age. I had no idea of Stephen Hawking, the early years.
I was expecting to be drowned in maths babble with this movie, or at the very least find myself hitting the pause button every 10 minutes to give my brain time to catch up... so I was really pleasantly surprised to find myself watching a far more human story, of how Stephen first became aware of his disability and it's impact on his life as it progressed. This movie would appeal to anyone, regardless of how maths-oriented you are, simply because the maths is clearly evident, but not rammed down your throat. It's even been 'dummied down' to a level suitable to get the general idea across to any viewer.
I found the style of the movie to be a little rough in places, but simply because they interleaved Stephen's story with an interview of the leading Physicists and Nobel-Prize-winning team of Arno Peuzias and Robert Wilson, who discovered the background radiation of the universe did not match the amount predicted by the then-accepted theory of a Steady-State Universe as expounded by Sir Fred Hoyle, the leading-light of Cosmology at that time.
The interview, set in 1978, takes us through how the discovery of the 3 degree background 'heat' of space could not be explained by any other means excepting the Big Bang Theory, a name coined by Sir Hoyle, who was totally against the concept of a Universe that had a beginning, because it implied an end as well. He held that belief to his dying day in 2001. At the time of Peuzias & Wilson's discovery, they had no idea Hawking existed, despite the fact that they were trying to prove HIS theory! -funny-
This movie really highlighted a few things for me. Adversity can change a person. Change them into something worse, or something so much better. Stephen was talented at age 20, but when his ALS kicked in, he had little to do, and far more determination to not let his life be wasted. He became something more than he ever was. And he beat the 2-year life expectancy deadline, by over 40 years and counting...
Overall, I feel somewhat stunned by the insight this movie gave me, not only into the early life of a brilliant man, but also into the early days of the theories that have shaped our view of the world, and the universe, we live in. A brilliant movie with only a few slack moments, easily explained as the fictional scenes created to fill in some blanks and bridge a few gaps in Stephen's history. Benedict Cumberbatch did a wonderful job of reliving Stephen, despite having only met Stephen twice, briefly, once before filming began and once during. A great all-round movie, well worth seeing.
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