In an age when we rely on computerized directions and GPS devices to drive to the next town, it seems an almost mythic scenario: brilliant men calculating outer-space trajectories on the fly with pencils and slide rules, keeping life and limb together literally with duct tape, flying to the moon and back simply because they could.
Apollo 13, Ron Howard’s wonderfully low-key, documentary-like dramatization of the ill-fated lunar mission of that name, is a thrilling tribute to the ingenuity, courage, teamwork, and professionalism of the astronauts and ground crew who turned America’s first outer-space disaster from an account of frustration and potential tragedy into a triumphant rescue story.
The entire cast is excellent, with Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon in space and Ed Harris and Gary Sinese (affecting in a rare non–bad-guy role) as key figures on the ground. The director’s mother, Jean Speegle Howard, has a plum supporting role as Lovell’s mother Blanche, a real character who gets a few of the film’s best lines. The weightless effects, many done in 30-second snatches in a free-falling NASA airplane, are mesmerizing.
There’s an ambitious modesty to Duncan Jones’s debut film Moon, a smart, existential science-fiction drama with one onscreen actor that runs 97 minutes and goes nowhere more exotic than our planet’s natural satellite.
Man’s own shadow, as much as the moon’s, lies across In the Shadow of the Moon, David Sington’s moving documentary of the U.S. Apollo program. An eloquent testament to the grandeur of creation as well as man’s unique place in it, In the Shadow of the Moon offers a remarkable look at the history and technology of the Apollo program, but an even more extraordinary glimpse of the men who lived it and made it happen.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.