Brought to the big screen through the delicate art of conservation, restoration and compilation of vintage footage, APOLLO 11 is a remarkable documentary reliving the captivating 10 days of the first NASA Apollo mission. Under the watchful eye of director Todd Douglas Miller, for the 50th anniversary of the space program to put the first man on the moon, thousands of hours of uncatalogued audio and dusty film from 1969 is uncovered and weaved into a humbling and hypnotic viewing experience.
The creation of a good documentary feature is a painstaking process. On the one hand, the team behind APOLLO 11 had the blessing of readily available content, made all the more exciting by including unseen footage from the launch and mission, yet the arduous task of editing a seamless yet watchable movie. Additionally, the film would need to stand out from the crowd and immerse the audience into the experience – the film does this grippingly. The powerful thrust of the rockets exerts a tremor through every bone in your body as your eyes clasp on the final countdown timer, and despite knowing the outcome it still feels exhilaratingly uncertain. One feels almost childlike again, as you gaze out of the shuttle window in awe at the vast expanse of space with the companionship of Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins.
The powerful thrust of the rockets exerts a tremor through every bone in your body as your eyes clasp on the final countdown timer, and despite knowing the outcome it still feels exhilaratingly uncertain.
In many ways, it feels like a nostalgic resurrection of social American harmony, free from the current lack of political bipartisanship in the USA that saturates worldwide newsfeeds. There is a sense of hope and wonder within the film, the genuine excitement at such a huge feat exemplifying the brilliant minds within the human race and what unity can accomplish. From the panning across the public, all huddled on the beaches near Cape Canaveral in flurried anticipation, to the wide-eyed gratification of the hundreds of NASA staff who worked on the mission – every shot is individually enthralling. Having past stories of our history kept alive is so crucial. The film reinvigorates our sense of discovery while also making it consumable for the public without getting lost in the intense data of the project. More sci-fi-style films such as THE MARTIAN play upon fiction too much at times for viewers to feel emboldened by it, but stories such as HIDDEN FIGURES and FIRST MAN do have a crucial place within this genre because of the way they humanise true stories.
APOLLO 11 is not theatrically glorified, but seamlessly interweaves all the critical elements of the mission, from the chaos of the control rooms to the calm of the astronauts collecting data up on the rover. By virtue of having aged yet visually powerful footage, this documentary is certainly worth capturing on the big screen and will be orbiting your mind for a long time after.
Apollo 11 debuted at Sundance 2019 in Utah and made the selection for Sundance London in May. The film is released in the UK on 26th June 2019.