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By midlandsmovies, Jun 29 2019 03:43PM



Apollo 11 (2019) Dir. Todd Douglas Miller


Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the famous 1969 moon landings, Apollo 11 is a new documentary that revisits the familiar space-race story but with some very unfamiliar footage. Made up entirely of archive film, the documentary includes high quality 70mm sequences that have never been released publicly, which is a huge shame given their significance.


But thankfully, here they are now. With no narration and minimal dialogue dubbed over the NASA images, the film reminded me of the documentary 3 Shots The Changed America about JFK’s assassination. There, as with here, historical home-movie style sequences from the era gave an eerie realism little seen in more formally structured docs.


And coming from the President who promised the US public a man on the moon in the first place, both films use 60s film stock and snippets of conversational sounds to create a natural feel that thrusts you straight into their respective periods.


The amazing footage isn’t just used for the inevitable launch and landing however. Much of the joy comes from the mundane. If you feel overfamiliar with the subject then the exclusive backroom admin work, telephone calls and crowds waiting in anticipation give the audience an experience that they would not have seen before – short of being at Cape Kennedy on the day itself.


Swathes of thrilled Americans are edited alongside rare CCTV of a van transporting the astronauts to the launch site. This grainy intimate black and white footage is as fascinating as the glorious 70mm film as we get to view many little-seen aspects from the day that all lead to the countdown. The huge tracks of the Missile Crawler Transporter slowly moving the Saturn V rockets to the pad are shot in such high quality you’ll swear they were filmed last week.


The Southern accents certainly make it an all-American affair, whilst a leaking valve shows the reality of the situation and its risky difficulties. The sensational images continue with the launch itself and the excitement of that day comes across in every frame. But again, the matter-of-fact procedures show how “normal” much of this seems. And these also remind us of the hundreds of humans behind the momentous occasion.


And as I type this on a laptop that has 1,500 times more processing power than the lunar module, the reality is that this was a dangerous mission as Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins are strapped into a claustrophobic metal box stuck to the world’s biggest firework.


Covering both the scientific detail and the strong patriotic emotions, Apollo 11 is a must-see for space enthusiasts and for the rest, you can bask in the jaw-dropping and immaculate footage which brings the electrifying lunar landing to life.


★★★★


Michael Sales


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