Wednesday, July 15, 2015


APOLLO 13 (1995)

Director: Ron Howard
Screenplay: William Broyles Jr. and Al Reinert based on the book “Lost Moon,” by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger

For some reason, certain films are almost too familiar for me to talk about well. Even great films. "Apollo 13", in America anyway, is I believe one of those films for a lot of people, me included. A few films are like this, that they ingrain so much of the best of Americana that they almost exist outside of their greatness as a film. In fact, when they are so ingrained, the greatness of a film, sometimes gets overshadowed. It's almost impossible to see the amazing technical achievements now, partially because they're hidden in plain sight so brilliantly, recreating images of 1970 space technology, which amazingly was startlingly primitive compared to the CGI effects of even the mid-90s that recreated them, much less the technology of today.

And it's so simple a story, it's three men trying to find there way home. The more you watch the movie, the more it feels like that, because the amazing accomplishment of the men in surviving the momentous disaster that was the mission. During the 13th Apollo mission, heading for the Moon, an oxygen tank exploding and basically everything that could've gone wrong on a mission to the Moon does, and we follow intently all the steps, (Actually a lot of the steps, like the manual driving the spaceship with the Earth in the window were done multiple times over, the movie simplifies a lot of it) they have to take, in order to get home, each one, capable of failing and leaving the three men dead at the slightest issue. 

It's surprisingly bare elsewise, the only major subplot character is Jim Lovell's (Tom Hanks) wife, Marilyn (Kathleen Quinleen) as she struggles at home dealing with their kids and at times the media and NASA. Everything else, is devoted to the mechanical telling of the story, which is actually more difficult than it sounds. Director Ron Howard is quite good at this technique, and his best films are able to find the emotional pulls through the more technical achievements, like his recent masterpieces, "Frost/Nixon" and "Rush", although neither were the technical achievements that "Apollo 13" was.

The film earned 11 Oscar nominations, winning 2, and Howard won the Director’s Guild Award for Best Director, although stunningly, he didn’t get an Oscar nomination (His Oscar win for “A Beautiful Mind,” while a very good film itself, might have been the Academy’s way of correcting this egregious error.) A big deal was made at how the special effects were made to look so realistic, including some amazing shots that weren’t special effects, which is something I sort of miss. Some wonder why show special effects if people aren't gonna notice them, well, as time goes on, this film can be exhibit A as to why. Here, they give the movie a sort of timelessness that most films based on true stories don’t come close to having. 

The movie, on top of being this amazing story of survival and adventure, while also showcasing the amazing awe-inspiring accomplishments of NASA and space travel in general. The Apollo 13 mission is often regarded in NASA circles as NASA's finest hour, moreso then even the actual moonlanding... (Which, if we're being honest was really America's only major accomplishment in the Space Race, the USSR basically beat us to everything else...)  Still, the more you know about the actual events of what happened, the more you’ll appreciate the actual film. 

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