Friday, October 31, 2008

In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)

(Image from IMP Awards)

In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)

I was able to look out the window to see this incredible sight of the whole circle of the Earth. Oceans were crystal blue, the land was brown, and the clouds and the snow were pure white. And that jewel of Earth was just hung up in the blackness of space.

'In the Shadow of the Moon' is an excellent documentary on the Apollo Moon Landings, one that is human centric and focuses on the astronauts' perspectives. Starting with Kennedy's famous 1961 speech about getting a man on the moon before the end of the decade, the film chronicles the development of the programme and the actual Apollo missions themselves - with a focus, naturally, on Apollo 11 - by featuring new interviews with most of the surviving astronauts, who give their recollections and thoughts on how things went down. Conspicuous by his absence is Neal Armstrong, but it doesn't really hurt the film all that much and gives Mike Collins (i.e. the guy who didn't get to land on the moon during Apollo 11, not the Irish guy) and Buzz Aldrin a chance to be in the limelight.

Featuring some stunning images from the Apollo missions together with archival footage of news coverage from the time, the film creates a feel for the excitement that surrounded the missions, excitement that transcended borders and encompassed the whole world. It never goes into technical depth but is more of a nostalgic recollection that highlights the drama and wonder of the events while touching on all of the major milestones; the focus on Apollo 11 is of course justifiable - the first moon landing is surely the most monumental event in human history - but it doesn't overwhelm the film and everything is covered fairly well up to the untimely end of the programme. My only real quibble with the doc is the religious stuff that gets thrown in there by some of the astronauts, but hey, what're you gonna do?

Overall it's a very well put together documentary that tells an important story very well and very accessibly, and should be seen by everyone. I can't imagine someone watching this and not being affected at least slightly by the achievement. When the credits start to roll, it's easy to get psyched for Project Constellation's proposed moon landings, naysayers be damned!

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