Review: Apollo 13

From expert director Ron Howard comes perhaps the defining space exploration film; rooted by true events Apollo 13 still stands as a testimony to what humanity could be.

Shortly after the amazing success of the Apollo 11 lunar landing that saw Neil Armstrong walk on The Moon, Apollo 13’s mission was to repeat the performance. But with public opinion apparently disinterested already, and misfortunes plaguing them even before the launch… Apollo 13’s mission might be the most dangerous and fatal space flight the world has ever seen.

Add to that, “the world might ever see”.
I get quite passionate when it comes to space travel; I find it intensely disappointing when people are more excited about upgrading their phone so its one millimeter thinner than the prospect of man venturing further into a world of discovery. So understand that watching Apollo 13 again, twenty years on, still has a lasting effect.

This is mostly due to director Ron Howard’s excellent style of film-making that grounds everything in reality and really focuses on the time period, something he would be perfecting over his career with Frost/Nixon, Rush and others. Set in 1970 the film acquires, much like his other films, a timeless quality, making the pioneering human spirit all the more prevalent. Nearly fifty years ago we achieved this!? It is incredible.

The film itself is a solid, rewarding experience. While 2013’s flashy affair Gravity is the same concept, and I was reminded of it, it was a rollercoaster experience heavily influenced by suspension of disbelief. Apollo 13 is based on reality, real events in a science that many of us do not understand and/or has been revised over the years to become antiquated. As such, the script does descend into a mire of tech talk with a room of lab coats arguing intensely. I had no idea what was being said, but I would rather have that in my moments of intensity than “movie script cliche 101”.
The acting across the board is very good, America’s golden boy Tom Hanks filling the role of Astronaut commander Jim Lovell (the film being based off his book) well, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton as his crew mates, and Gary Sinise in perhaps the most interesting role; their original crewmate who was deemed unhealthy to go on the mission. Sinise’s character Ken goes through an interesting arc, and I always remember it after seeing the film.

Ed Harris completes the cast as Houston’s controller Gene Kranz, who looks like he is enjoying the role’s intensity. Indeed, regardless of the severity and intensity that the film implements with integrity, there’s a good streak of humour that rises up when it is needed. The sort of honest levity that we need in times of crisis.

Regardless of the realistic script and focus on the technology, you would need a heart of stone to not feel something still when the film concludes, such is the nature of the story, the truth behind it and the film-making at hand. Given our recent departure from space travel, the film’s ending is actually more poignant now than ever…

Apollo 13 is an important film. It shows not just the indomitable human spirit but also our need to venture out beyond what we know, because when we do it is possible for us to band together for a common cause.

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