APOLLO 11 – Documentary Review

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To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the mankind’s first landing on the Moon, Apollo 11 is being released theatrically and on line. The new documentary, a compilation comprised entirely of previously seen archival footage, offers viewers an extraordinary ‘you are there’ experience of the moonshot, especially the film is seen on IMAX or other large screens.

Director Todd Douglas Miller uses footage that was recorded by NASA’s stationary cameras, shot by superb documentary cinematographers and by the astronauts themselves (Buzz Aldrin is actually a member of the cinematographer’s union!) to chronicle the entire mission, from pre-launch preparations to coverage of the rocket’s exterior and interior during take off and flight, and images of Earth taken from space to the Moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s ‘small step for man, giant leap for mankind’ walk on the Moon’s surface. Also documented are the astronaut’s return to Earth, quarantine period and reunion with their families.

Notably, recorded reactions of citizens who watched the journey from start to finish indicate the worldwide impact that the landing had. It was a monumental achievement that elicited awe and signaled hope. There’s even footage and audio of the phone call then President Richard Nixon made to congratulate the astronauts for their service to the nation and all humankind.

Mention must be made of the documentary’s extraordinarily effective sound design. Composer Matt Morton, who both scored the film and is its only musician, creates sounds that seem to emanate from the rocket and other equipment shown on screen, to capture and utilize their vibrations to make watching the documentary a truly visceral ‘you are there’ experience.

For viewers who were alive at the time of the moonshot, the documentary recalls one of the most exciting moments of their lives — they undoubtedly remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when Armstrong planted an American flag on the Moon. For those who were not yet born, this documentary is a wonderful opportunity to experience and reflect upon the awe inspiring achievement of that moment.

The documentary is not only a thrill ride. It is extremely thought provoking. Looking at the footage from our present point of view, from this moment in human evolution, the documentary is an affecting sample of inspiring nostalgia. The moonshot was one event in a larger program designed to expand human knowledge about our physical universe and enhance our insight about our place in it. The government’s progressive space program may have originated in the cold war race to space, but it was also considered to be an essential expansion of possibilities for human kind. It was as forward thinking as any human endeavor could be. Now, 30 years later, the space program is a thing of the past. What was progressive has become nostalgic, and one wonders what that indicates about human priorities, aspirations and goals.

Think about that as you take this thrilling ride, preferably in an IMAX theater or the largest screen you can access. It’s worth a trip to a neighboring town to get the full effect.

Film Details:

Title: Apollo 11
Directors: Todd Douglas Miller
Release Date: March 1, 2019
Running Time: 93 mins.
Locations: Cape Kennedy, Houston, the Moon
Language: English
Production Country: USA
Production Company: CNN Films
Distribution Company: Neon
Official Trailer
Official Website

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