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  • 5 out of 5

Apollo 11- See it on the biggest screen you can find.


It's an old joke but someone asked me do you need to have seen Apollo 1 to 10 before seeing Apollo 11...

Director Todd Douglas Miller has produced a ground-breaking documentary that takes the viewer and places them right in the centre of the historic moon landing of July 1969. The fiftieth anniversary is only days away and the achievement of the men and women of NASA, taking up the challenge from President John F Kennedy earlier that same decade to land a man on the moon and return them safely is brought to us in amazing detail.

There is new film footage that we have never seen before, newly restored and presented. That's one of the attractions of this film documentary. There are no "talking heads" explaining everything. The tale is told from the film and audio recordings of the day; NASA's own, TV footage and plenty of news anchor, Walter Cronkite.

We all know the story and how it turns out, yet the magic of this film in placing you in the centre of the action is that you still sit on the edge of your seat, you still dig your nails into the palm of your hand when the 1202 and 1201 alarms go off in the Lunar Module. You watch the fuel level reduce and approach the point where they would have had to abort as they had insufficient fuel to take off again. You hear Neil Armstrong wrestle with the computer as it tried to make them erroneously land in a crater. It is nail-biting stuff.

The significance of the moon landings is enormous. The bravery of the astronauts who strapped themselves into, what was little more than a tin can, atop millions of litres of highly explosive fuel is astonishing. I've had the good fortune to visit the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC where they have one of the lunar capsules and a lunar module. You see how rickety they were, held together with pop rivets and sticky tape.

I have to mention the musical score by Matt Morton is subtle yet amazing. His use of period instruments and the compositions themselves enhance the tension but never distract from the moment. It's wonderful and deserves an Oscar nomination.

The team that put together this documentary used the work that Ben Feist did when he increased the quality of 11,000 hours of digitized audio recordings of taken during the Apollo 11 launch. Feist also detailed the recordings by minute and second, making it easier for the documentary team to sync up audio and video sequences. It is this attention to detail that sets Apollo 11 apart.

Even though we all know how it ends, I urge you to go see it. And see it on the biggest screen with the best sound system you can find.

Oh, and the Universal ident they use at the start is the one Universal used in 1969.

It's simply an astounding film documentary. Go see it.


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