IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON
(director: David Sington; cinematographer: Clive North; editor: David Fairhead; music: Philip Sheppard; cast: Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Jim Lovell, Alan Bean, Eugene Cernan, Edgar Mitchell, Dave Scott, John Young, Charlie Duke, Harrison Schmitt; Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Ron Howard; THINKFilm; 2007)
“It seems more like a television program one would see on the Discovery Channel than a movie.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Brit filmmaker David Sington’s straightforward and earnest documentary, an attempt at being a morale booster, is a tribute to the Apollo space program between 1968 and 1972. It mixes archival material and recent interviews with all the surviving Apollo moon-walking astronauts, except for a reclusive Neil Armstrong, to tell about the nine moon trips and the 12 men who walked on the moon. The thrill offered is that it brings together for the first and possibly last time the surviving crew members of all those missions and it tells the story of those flights in their own words and also shows some stunning archival material never viewed before by the public that was re-mastered from the original NASA film footage. It seems more like a television program one would see on the Discovery Channel than a movie and even though it has some impressive footage and is certainly worth seeing, it nevertheless loses its sense of awe in the dull way it’s presented.
It spends most of its time over the inspiring Apollo 11 mission, in July 1969, that thrilled the world when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon for mankind and together with his moon-walking teammate “Buzz” Aldrin planted the American flag on the moon and gave hope that the world can come together in peace. That mission came at a time of unrest in the country over the Cold War, the Vietman War, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, the assassination of JFK and the race to space between Russia and America, and gave the public some good vibes for a change. But the history lesson of NASA is sketchily presented; it leaves out so many details that it’s more amazing about what it left out than what it included.
The astronauts might be boring but they are all brave men and all acquit themselves as nice guy heroes who had the “right stuff” and are humble. Those interviewed offer candid comments on their reflections of their Apollo missions, and those on the Apollo 11 mission do a good job of bringing back those wonderful memories of such a positive and hopeful time for NASA and their visionary aims. It was great hearing the can-do astronauts tell us what it was like to visit the moon and take a stroll on its gray surface. They ably communicate the excitement and dangers of their mission, and give us a good idea of how it must have felt traveling on a rocketship moving at 26,000 mph. Michael Collins, Apollo 11 command module pilot, might not have walked on the moon as the third teammate of Armstrong and Aldrin, but of all the astronauts he was the most articulate and seemed to best capture the majesty and great accomplishment of the American lunar program during that time frame. Their story deserves retelling, not only to preserve a time American prestige was at its highest point around the world but as a reminder of how far down American prestige has dipped due to its present questionable policies around the world.
REVIEWED ON 10/13/2007 GRADE: B-