On its fiftieth anniversary, the events surrounding the actual Apollo 11 space mission are presented solely using archival footage and still photographs of or associated with the mission. The events span from the eleventh hour preparations for the launch to shortly after the safe touchdown of the capsule with its three astronauts back on Earth. The mission is historic as the first time humans had stepped on the surface of the Earth's moon. It arguably made household names of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as the first and second to walk on the moon, and slightly less so for the third astronaut, Michael Collins, who remained inside the capsule at the time. It was arguably the most dangerous space mission at the time in part to the astronauts leaving the safety of the capsule.Written by
Experience the Apollo 11 mission like you have never before
"Apollo 11" (2019 release; 93 min.) is a documentary about the Apollo 11 mission. As the movie opens, we are informed it is "July 16, 1969" and a mere 3 hours away from the launch. We get full-color footage of the enormous crowds 15 mi. away from the launching pad. Meanwhile, through a quick photo montage, we get a quick glimpse at the three astronauts' life, as they are getting their space suits on. The TV commentator meanwhile talks about "the burdens and hope they carry for all mankind". It is then time for the astronauts to be driven to the Apollo. At this point we are then 10 min. into the movie.
Couple of comments: this documentary is directed and edited by Todd Douglas Miller. There have been many documentaries about the Apollo 11 mission before, so what sets this one apart? Several things: first and foremost, during the collaboration between the film makers and NASA, never before seen 70 mm full color footage was unearthed. That, combined with previously available 16 mm and 32 mm footage allowed the film makers to present this story in a way never before experienced. Frankly, words are not enough. The astronauts' elevator ride up to the top of the Apollo space ship (over 300 ft. tall) finally give a sense of how freaking high that is. Second, the film makers decided to use no voice-over or narrator, and instead let the TV commentary and the internal NASA discussions do all of the talking. Third, there is a fabulous electronic score, courtesy of composer Matt Morton. And get this: Morton used only instruments that were around at the time of Apollo 11's trip to the moon in July, 1969, including including the Moog modular Synthesizer IIIc, the Binson Echorec 2, and the Mellotron. Wow, just wow. When you combine all of these elements, it makes for outright compelling viewing. Even though we of course know the outcome, I nevertheless STILL felt tense as I was watching all of this unfold.
You may or may not be aware that Neil Armstrong spent the last 40 years of his life here in Cincinnati (where I live), including teaching at the University of Cincinnati. Upon his retirement, he became an even more private person than he already was, and public appearances were rare. I had the great fortune of seeing him narrate the "Lincoln Portrait" at a Cincinnati Pops performance in 2009, and the outpouring of love, respect and affection from the public for this true American hero made the hairs stand on my arms. Meanwhile, "Apollo 11" is an unforgettable movie experience, and highly recommended!
*UPDATE Jan 13, 2020* This past weekend I saw an edited version of the film called "Apollo 11 - First Steps Edition" at the Omnimax theater of the Cincinnati Museum Center. It is the exact same footage as in the original film, cut down to 45 min. so as to fit the IMAX/Omnimax schedules. I was incredibly excited beforehand, as I thought this would be true Imax/Omnimax footage, but alas, that is not the case. It's as before but projected on the half-dome screen that is the Omnimax. Still very enjoyable, and I love, LOVE the original score by Matt Morton blasting away in an Omnimax setting.
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