By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Star – The Apollo Astronauts
Genre – Documentary
Run Time – 1 hr 40 minutes
Certificate – PG 13
Country – U.S.A
Awards – 6 Wins & 13 Nominations
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Just think about the wonderment of being the first human to set foot on the Moon, effectively the first real steps to colonizing the universe. It’s highly likely we are the only intelligent life in these parts and our particular universe needed to be as big as it is just to have the right infinite probability of time and space for humans to exist to keep it all going. I suspect its human technology thousands of years from now who accidentally create our universe through that big bang in some sort of machine and that quantum paradox is the only way we ever came to be in my mind. Who else could create the big bang?
I think people who deny the Moon landings really don’t understand the power and speed of evolution and I guess they are too stupid to take part in that growth, why they deny it. Any idiot who still doesn’t think we went to the Moon seriously needs to watch this beautiful documentary about the Apollo program from the mouths of the guys who went to the Moon and the people who put them there, or thereabouts, on numerous missions. As Buzz Aldrin says in the film –’Why the hell would we fake it nine times?’
No fewer than ten former astronauts appear in this documentary. During the Apollo Program, twenty-four guys reached the vicinity of the Moon. Of the twelve who actually set foot on the moon, eight appear on camera, Neil Armstrong the only living one to not show here, while Pete Conrad, James Irwin and Alan Shepard had already died by 2007, the year this film was released. Jim Lovell and Michael Collins from the ill feted Apollo 13 also appear. All manned Apollo flights with the exception of Apollo 7, which was an earth-orbit mission, were represented in the film. Pretty much everybody is here who were there in those extraordinary times. Of all the astronauts who appeared in the film, only Buzz Aldrin demanded to be paid. Not cool Buzz. American taxpayers got you to the moon pal, no one else.
Buzz Aldrin … Himself
Neil Armstrong … Himself (archive footage)
Stephen Armstrong … Himself (archive footage)
Viola Armstrong … Herself (archive footage)
Alan Bean … Himself (Apollo 12 Lunar Module pilot)
Eugene Cernan … Himself
Michael Collins … Himself (Apollo 11 command module pilot)
Charles Duke … Himself (Apollo 16)
John F. Kennedy … Himself (archive footage)
Jim Lovell … Himself (Apollo 13 captain)
Edgar D. Mitchell … Himself (Apollo 14 Lunar Module Commander)
Garry Moore … Himself (archive footage)
Harrison Schmitt … Himself (Apollo 17 Lunar Module Commander)
Dave Scott … Himself (Apollo 16 Commander)
John Young … Himself( Apollo 16 Commander)
Walter Cronkite … Himself (archive footage) (uncredited
Lyndon Johnson … Himself (archive footage) (uncredited)
Harry Kramer … Himself – CBS Announcer (archive sound) (uncredited)
We have a mixture of very familiar film and TV stuff plus of the missions and landings plus welcome unseen new footage of the Apollo program. With no narration it’s wrapped around lots of talking heads by the astronauts and crew themselves, as they were in 2008, for the 100 minute runtime. With no narration or pointless celebrity input it remains intelligent and powerful and profound throughout.
I loved this and at times moved to tears. Nobody on Earth has done anything as extraordinary as these guys have and that must be quite a burden, as well as unimaginable pride. I’m not surprised Neil Armstrong eventually withdrew from the public eye as his journey was the most profound of all and effectively a living God until he died in 2012. It would be hard to impress him with a story at a social function and I’m sure he tired of the same questions. You simply can’t do anything more in life to get the same buzz if you are Neil Armstrong. You potter around the garden to stay sane.
The real treat here is the guys talking about the mission with such passion, pride and authority. You can judge their body language on actual events and you are just in awe. Unlike their critics, these guys are super smart, charismatic, and brave and all manner of other things and you can only imagine the sheer terror and excitement of being on the Apollo program. We forget three astronauts were cooked alive on the launch pad in the early days of the program and with all manner of things that could go wrong in space you can only imagine the stones on these guys. That Apollo 13 mission really happened that way and can you imagine how you would have dealt with that huge problem to be solved on board 13? Incredible stuff. The right stuff.
The astronauts are laid back in their talking heads and reveal stuff I ever knew, like the fact the Apollo 8 crew was boosted up to the Apollo 11 moon shot as the Americans feared the Russians would get their first. There is one or two small inaccuracies in the film for conspiracy theorist to churp up on but corrected later on, like the computer fail red light as the module approached the moon’s surface and the override decision. But Armstrong made the call and the mission proceeded, like his brave maneuver over the landing site when critical fuel warnings were beeping. He decided the planed landing zone was too rocky so burned up fuel at level flight looking for a flat spot instead of descending left or right ever side of it and using even more fuel. Super smart people make super smart decisions there and then.
There are some funny moments, like when the live moon landing broadcast is sponsored by Kellogg’s, or when Buzz explains that his slight pause on the ladder ‘was too pee in his suit’. There are just lovely bits all the way through, like when the astronauts talk about that moment of the Earth rise over the Moon horizon, an Earth that Michael Collins could hide behind his thumb. Just think about the profound moment that must have been. They talk of how menacing the moon looked on the semi dark side and how hostile and alone it felt down there looking back at ‘the Jewel of Earth shining in the terrifying blackness of space’. This is just a beautiful and powerful piece of filmmaking that stays with you. It’s free on YouTube and listed in the top 20 Rottentomatoes documentary list of all time so go see it!
IMDb.com – 8.1 /10.0 (5,234votes)
Rottentomatos.com – % critic’s approval
Metacritic.com –84 % critic’s approval
The NY Times – ‘It never hurts to be reminded of our potential and our insignificance, and who better to do the reminding than clean-cut American boys who’ve covered up the entire world with their thumbs.’
L.A. Weekly –’The crowd-pleaser has enough ambition to pitch a one-size-fits-all philosophy based on the Apollo crew’s revelation that looking down from space, our problems seem trivial’.
Time Out – ‘David Sington more than makes up for the straightforward nature of his film with the quality of its interviews and plenitude of staggering archive footage.’
Film.com – ‘The movie fills us with wonder, and pride, and a tugging sense of loss.’
Detroit News – ‘The contrast between the near-surreal space footage and the down-to-earth men who were actually in those spacesuits is awe-inspiring.’