Director: Todd Douglas Miller
You are probably going to get pretty ‘mooned out’ over the next week or so as the 50th Anniversary of the day that man first set foot on another world arrives. So before that happens I urge you to go and catch ‘Apollo 11’ at you closest IMAX type screen. Like myself, you may have already seen and or owned previous documentaries on the Apollo 11 missions like ‘For All Mankind’ or ‘Moonwalk One’ but this is pure adrenaline in cinematic form.
The brilliance is in its minimalism – there are no talking heads, recent interviews, dumbing down commentary by Morgan Freeman or, god forbid, conspiracy theorists. Eggsy and Maggot from Goldie Lookin Chain don’t pop up to say what they think about space. The director, Todd Douglas Miller, said they had a rule that if it didn’t happen live on that particular day, at that particular time then it wasn’t going in the film. Only a couple of audio interview snippets with Aldrin, Armstrong & Collins during the pre flight footage help with a bit of scene setting. Otherwise there is wonderful images of the crowds gathering by and miles away from the launch site, the bleachers slowly filling on a hot summer day – button down 60s suburbia mixing with store bought hippie chic & literal rose tinted shades.
Despite this being a well worn story where you might assume you have seen all of this footage many times before it appeared fresh as if it was filmed yesterday and slight different angles and avoiding the usual choices make it new again. The score is subtle enough not to swap the visials with the last seconds before lift off a heartbeat pulse. The power and force of the take off both visually and aurally as the Saturn V rocket slowly tears itself from the bonds of earth still amazes.
The only other audio throughout is from Houston, the astronauts and a guest appearance by videolink by Richard Nixon whose ‘this must be the greatest message ever relayed from the White House’ feels oddly Trumpian. There is plenty of revealing audio snippets between earth and Apollo plus technical reports that add colour and obviously fill the gap between take off and moon where very little footage of the vehicles exist. Tricky manouveres, burns and acceleration are illustrated with sound, onscreen data and musical cues ramping up the tension. Even with the knowledge that nothing unfortunate will happen at these key moments the feeling of peril is still there.
The landing and first steps are still spellbinding with some great and often amusing audio and film snippets before they head home. The events in Houston are similarly told with simple captions for the main characters and mission controllers. Its a film that expects a little intelligence and foreknowledge from the viewer but even if you have no idea who there people are its makes no odds.
Only showing at large or IMAX screens around the country for a short time – get off your arse, climb into a comfy reclining seat elsewhere and prepare to be dazzled
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
For All Mankind, Moonwalk One, Apollo 13, Space Camp, Flight Of The Naigator, Star Wars, Button Moon
Tintin On the Moon, Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Day Out, The Clangers, Doctor Who and Brian Eno