Apollo 11

 

starstarstarstar

 


A chance to experience or re-experience an historic event seen now in close-up and on the cinema screen.

 
Apollo 11

  

The 50th anniversary of the moon landing in July 1969 is being marked by the release of two films, this one by Todd Douglas Miller and Armstrong which will reach us on 12 July. Miller’s documentary is an on-the-spot report in that it eschews any present-day commentary and contains no footage of the aeronauts looking back. Indeed, it is fair to say that Miller’s aim is to make the audience feel that they are first-hand spectators witnessing the launch of the spacecraft Apollo 11 and then the events in space during the subsequent nine days before Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins safely returned to earth. For some, Apollo 11 will be an opportunity to recall their memories of the time, but for many others it will be a chance to see in detail for the first time an authentic record of a unique achievement by mankind.

 

It makes perfect sense that Apollo 11 should come across first and foremost as an awesome spectacle: it was shot in a wide screen format, the quality of its fifty-year-old images is for the most part remarkably good and the film cries out to be seen on the big screen. Although authenticity is crucial, the film is inevitably a work of compression since it covers the whole operation - the flight out and the return journey as well as the famous footage taken on the moon’s surface - within a film of standard length (93 minutes). In effect, this is one of those times when directing and editing are really part of a single process so it is entirely apt that Miller has the sole credit under both headings. He has done a very good job and, without letting the film get bogged down in technical details, he fully conveys the procedures when the craft moves between the earth’s orbit and the lunar orbit and when Armstrong and Aldrin transfer from the mother ship to make the actual landing subsequently reversing the process to rejoin Collins who had been left alone on Apollo 11.

 

If there is any questionable aspect regarding Apollo 11, it is the nature of its music track. There is very little music early on and none when the astronauts are seen on the moon, but from the launch onwards for much of the time Matt Morton’s score is very much a presence and sometimes a thudding one. It could well be that some older viewers will regret this while younger ones will admire it, but it is probably the case that the film gains in coherence and force from having a score of this kind. Music features again late on when we hear John Stewart’s song ‘Mother Country’. That provides the film’s most nationalistic moment but overall, while the fact that Apollo 11’s flight was an American triumph is made apparent, the film is in line with the views expressed at the time that this major conquest of space was an achievement for mankind as a whole. Miller’s film obviously seeks an audience drawn to its subject matter, but it certainly does full justice to the human significance of what was so bravely accomplished in July 1969.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Clifford E. Charlesworth, Bruce McCandless II, Charles Drake, Gene Kranz, Jim Lovell.

 

Dir Todd Douglas Miller, Pro Todd Douglas Miller, Thomas Baxley Petersen and Evan Krauss, Ph Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, Urs Furrer, Jeri Sopanen, Theo Kamecke, James Allen, Adam Holender, Victor Johannes, Edwin Lynch, Jerry Bray, Bob Bird, Charles Turner, Bob Newman and Bob Harmon, Ed Todd Douglas Miller, Music Matt Morton.

 

Universal/Neon/CNN Films/Statement Pictures-Dogwoof.
93 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 28 June 2019. Cert. U.