1 hour, 40 minutes
PG Parental Guidance Suggested.
mild language, brief violent images and incidental smoking.
The making of In the Shadow of the Moon; Filmmaker commentary with David Sington; Introduction by Ron Howard; Exclusive 'Never Before Seen' NASA footage that will take you inside the Apollo Moon missions!; 16:9 anamorphic presentation
This absolutely magnificent film manages to be almost as funny as it is uplifting. The best documentaries take you to places you've never been and probably never will. This film presents a nearly perfect experience as it follows the twenty-four U.S. astronauts who travelled to the moon, and the twelve who walked upon its surface as part of the Apollo missions in the turbulent late '60's.
The Vietnam War was at its most controversial and the country was shocked by several high profile assassinations. Director David Sington (TV's "Nova") includes just enough of the background of this unsettled period in our nation's history to remind us of the violent days during which these momentous adventures were taking place, adroitly intercutting astronaut interviews with archival NASA footage. And the astronauts themselves all seem just as unassuming as you always believed them to be.
What they did was extremely dangerous. The rockets that were scheduled to blast the astronauts into outer space were regularly blowing up on the launching pad when Jim Lovell, of Apollo 13, was first offered a position on the team. And sadly, people did die.
Alan Bean, Apollo 12, recalls being told one day during training that they had "lost the crew" of Apollo 1. He thought they meant the crew was training somewhere and couldn't be found. It was only after he was told for the third time that they had "lost the crew" that he realized what that information implied. A flash fire caused by what all of the crews knew was poor wiring burnt up the Apollo 1 crew during one of its many preflight simulations.
Sington's also included an episode of "I've Got a Secret" in which two proud parents, Mr. and Mrs. Aldrin, tell the country that their son just been chosen that day to be an astronaut. Although the guys were all modest, they did enjoy the publicity, at least initially. Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11, says that he enjoyed hearing the title of the book, "The Right Stuff," about their adventures. After the book came out, he said he finally felt he now had "the right stuff," even though he was exactly the same guy then as he was before the book was published.
The cinematography throughout is fascinating and gorgeous. One of the most memorable scenes is a slow-motion view of the Apollo 11 rocket taking off. As we see the silver body rise through the roiling ignition smoke during lift-off, an American Flag painted on the side glides through our view.
Six of the seven Apollo missions that were scheduled to land on the lunar surface did. The only one that didn't, Apollo 13, proved to be one of the most dramatic missions of them all, as the astronauts had to return home in the lunar lander. As a surprising side-note, the film shows us an announcement that President Nixon taped in case the first mission to the moon's surface, Apollo 11, failed, leaving the men stuck on the moon to die. It's chilling and mesmerizing.
"In the Shadow of the Moon" recalls that wondrous moment in our history when America had the entire world watching us and looking toward the sky. Quite a change from the way that most of the world views us today.