Sundance 2019: NASA Takes Us to the Moon in New 'Apollo 11' Doc
by Alex Billington
January 26, 2019
Later this year, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and Moon landing. Back in July of 1969, NASA successfully sent a team of three astronauts safely to the Moon (238,900 miles away) and back, a monumental achievement in human history that is still just as mind-blowing today as it was 50 years ago. Apollo 11 is a brand new documentary directed by filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller, and it is truly spectacular a cinematic event. One of the films this year you absolutely must see on the big screen this year, as the footage and technical aspects of this film are extraordinary. Miller and his filmmaking crew, along with archivists and others, helped restore and re-scan tons of footage from NASA to put this together.
Miller's Apollo 11 is a stunning, gorgeously cinematic documentary made up entirely of footage from NASA's archives. It takes us from the initial countdown and launchpad roll out of Apollo 11, to the exciting launch, all the way through their voyage to the Moon, landing on the surface at "Tranquility Base", and all the way safely back to Earth. We all know the story, we all know every last detail, but it's still one of the most nerve-wracking, mind-blogging, unbelievable (but it did really happen) accomplishments in human history. No matter how many times I watch the voyage of Apollo 11, in various docs and feature films before this, I still find myself overwhelmed with emotions and awe and pride. We did this. We went to the Moon, and pulled it off thanks to the ingenuity & tenacity of many smart people. It still blows me away every time I realize this.
This film is an exhilarating experience - your heart will be racing throughout. There's no talking heads in this documentary, just raw, real footage restored and handled with great care taking us back to 1969 and this great moment in history. All the footage is utterly stunning, looking better than ever after cleaning it up and scanning high resolution negatives and original audio recordings. Everything looks so spectacular that I honestly still can't believe all that happens in this is real. It looks like all of it is the best VFX you've ever seen, comparable to any of the Hollywood movies about the Apollo missions (e.g. Apollo 13, First Man). But that's the thing - it is all real, and all of this did happen 50 years ago. To see so clearly shots of the buttons inside the modules, and at the command center, and the tiniest of details on the spacecraft is breathtaking.
This is also a lovely companion piece with Damien Chazelle's First Man. These two recent films (both about the same mission) fit together perfectly and honestly it doesn't feel like either is treading the same territory as the other - all the footage in this doc is magnificent on its own. And this film focuses more on the journey, it's like a trip back in time to see and fly alongside the astronauts on this historic Apollo mission. Complete with the original audio recordings and NASA's narration that helps guide us along. This is and will always be one of humankind's greatest accomplishments, and this film does its best to honor that epic achievement by letting us see for ourselves – as clearly as possible – how remarkable it was that we truly did all this in 1969.
Alex's Sundance 2019 Rating: 9 out of 10
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