Friday, April 20, 2012

"Apollo 13" (1998)

”We’ve never lost an American in space, we’re sure as hell not gonna lost one on my watch! Failure is not an option.”

Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigart are getting prepared to depart on Apollo 13, part of the Apollo Space Program at NASA, with a plan to land on the moon, only to find things go horribly wrong after the launch. Partway through the mission there is an explosion that disables the spacecraft, effectively making any moon landing impossible. No one is even sure that the crew will survive to make it home. NASA jumps into action, devising a plan to bring their astronauts back to Earth, all while the public is worrying about their fate. Meanwhile Lovell, Haise and Swigart are left in space to survive as their spacecraft endures one malfunction after another.

This is one of the better space movies to come out in the 90s. There were Star Trek films, that mess Armageddon, The Fifth Element, Independence Day, Contact, etc. All creating a fairly homogenous blob of movies about space. It may have helped that the film was nonfiction, unlike some of the space films in that decade which seemed to draw from the crazy pool when it came to plotlines.

Everything about the film is immaculate. The sets, the cinematography, the costumes, even the haircuts feel authentic to the time period. My favourite set was probably Mission Control with all the retro tech, the big screen and skinny ties. And I loved to see the astronauts actually floating around in their spacecraft. The story as well, was expertly crafted. You're never safe to relax in this film after liftoff. There is always another problem to solve, further complicating what remains of Apollo 13's mission.

One part I didn’t like was that both Jack and Fred have moments of crisis in the spacecraft. They both question whether they’ll get home, showing cracks in the smooth veneer of expectations for astronauts. But Jim Lovell, Tom Hanks' character, never deviates from his belief that everything will be fine. While his stoicism was commendable I just didn't buy it. It makes his character seems less relatable as I imagine anyone, even astronauts, would have some worry about never returning home to their friends and family. Even if it wasn't in front of his shipmates, I would like to have seen some moment of hesitation, of doubt. It would have made the situation that much more tense and real.

This is an amazing film with a really great story. If you’re looking for a more detailed retelling I suggest reading ”Lost Moon” the book which inspired the movie. I reviewed it here.

Rating: 4.5/5

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