Well Made and Well Acted

Richard Feynman was a brilliant Nobel-winning physicist, who was brought in to assist on the Presidential Commission, to help discover what went wrong on that fateful day, which saw 7 astronauts; one of them a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, die 73 seconds after take-off. Playing Professor Feynman was William Hurt, who I thought handled the role as the enigmatic Feynman perfectly. Particularly as Hurt was performing the Richard Feynman who was literally at death’s door. Feynman was portrayed by Matthew Broderick in the biographical movie Infinity, back in 1996, but this is as much about the actual Challenger disaster, as about Feynman himself.

How he used scientific reasoning to cut through the political BS the others on the commission were unable to manage as their hands were tied. William Hurt is good in the roles where he plays someone slightly off-kilter, and there are three I can think of off the top of my head, where he done his ‘William Hurt’ exceptionally well. The Yellow Handkerchief, Mr Brooks and A History of Violence, in fact, the last one was, in my opinion at least, his best role, and maybe even his best performance to date. (And whatever happened to Mr Brooks 2? That is a movie that needs to made!)

The Challenger Disaster
Directed by
James Hawes
Bruce Greenwood, William Hurt, Joanne Whalley
Release Date
16 November 2013
Influx Grade: A-

Joanne Whalley plays wife Gweneth Feynman, and while she doesn’t have a great deal of screen-time, she does a solid job when she’s on. Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek Into Darkness ) is 2 star General Kutyna, and is the closest thing to a friend Feynman has on the commission. Bruce Greenwood is a busy actor who is perfectly suited to roles where he gets to wear a uniform and salute a lot, but again, well cast.

Playing the commission chairperson is Brian Dennehy, who first came to my attention in 1982, when as a 17 year-old, I saw him getting his ass handed to him by my childhood hero, Rambo, John J, in First Blood, and ever since have tried to watch his movies. Dennehy is clearly not a young man anymore but he still has a few good years left in those old bones. Well acted and cast, The Challenger Disaster is a joint US/UK production, and is helmed by British ex-Doctor Who director James Hawes.
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Hawes is very experienced and having an also, very experienced cast must have helped him to concentrate on telling the story. I was fascinated from beginning to end, because, not only was the film well made, but the science involved was interesting and watching the great man puzzle it out just added to the overall effect of the film.

After Challenger blew up, a Presidential Commission was immediately called for, but everyone on the commission had an association in one way or another to government agencies, so an independent voice was needed and Richard Feynman was asked to join. Feynman had terminal cancer yet still went ahead, and even with reluctant witnesses and lost notes, Feynman went on to help solve the problem and showed what actually happened. His findings went on to ensure it would never happen again.

by Nav Qateel