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Blu-ray Review: Apollo 11

May 21, 2019

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

It’s been fifty years now since the United States first put a man on the moon back in July of 1969, and this incredible human achievement is revisited in the documentary Apollo 11, which is made up almost entirely of archival material, including a bounty of newly discovered 65mm footage that was shot during the launch and moon landing itself.

This is edited together with previously unreleased audio recordings as well old 35mm footage and grainy 16mm film clips, to offer a compelling, up close look at what went into sending Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.

We watch as Armstrong and Aldrin put on their spacesuits and undergo final preparations, as people on the ground in Mission Control labour over gigantic computers that were state of the art at the time. The film unfolds over eight days, at first counting down to the actual launch of the Saturn V rocket, before taking us through the module’s journey through space, the actual moon landing, which was being watched live by countless people on TV, and finally the return trip.

Directed by Todd Douglas Miller, who also edited the film, Apollo 11 is an often surprisingly cinematic documentary, and the 65mm scenes have a grandeur to them that is stunning to watch. The footage has held up extremely well, including some moments that were actually shot by the astronauts on the moon, and Miller constructs a narrative around the material by presenting it in chronological order, with no voiceover or talking head interviews to break it up.

The historic nature of the moon landing is put into perspective when we see images of the countless civilians who camped out on the grounds near the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida so that they could witness the launch first-hand. The archival material is strung together with some simple animations charting the distance from the earth to the moon, and an onscreen ticking clock, to help show us where we are at in the journey. It’s set to a propulsive score by composer Matt Morton.

Despite the fact that we are watching footage that was shot fifty years ago this summer, there is a sense of immediacy to Apollo 11 that is almost startling to observe. The film is first and foremost a remarkable technical achievement, and it allows us to experience the moon landing in as up close and personal a way as possible.

The Blu-ray also includes the short but interesting featurette Apollo 11: Discovering the 65mm.

Apollo 11 is an Elevation Pictures release. It’s 93 minutes and rated G.

Street Date: May 14th, 2019

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