The true story of Apollo 11 and its journey to and from the moon, told through actual footage of the mission. The film commences with the assembly of the launch pad and concludes with the three astronauts leaving quarantine.
Comparisons to Damien Chazelle’s recent First Man are inevitable. Whereas that film focused on a singular hero and his personality and struggles, Apollo 11 spreads its focus between all of the crew of the ship and includes the near-constant presence of ground control. The reassurance and encouragement received from those earthbound voices serve to humanise the entire endeavour, even more than Chazelle’s film. This is a human journey and it really imparts the scale and beauty of that undertaking.
The greatest success of Apollo 11 is to capture not only the tension of the entire mission but also the joy. As the men take to the Lunar surface there is joy and laughter and pure wonder. Even a phone call from Richard Nixon feels humble. This is clearly a tremendous undertaking but it’s a playful and adventurous one too.
It’s simply breathtaking that some of this footage exists. Very occasionally simple graphics are used to illustrate the operation and its aims, but fir the most part this is actual footage captured in space and on the moon. Comparisons to Peter Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old feel natural as history is brought back to vivid life through this footage. The editing creates a dramatic pace to the scenes of launching and landing and imbues the actual Luna surface sequences with a palpable sense of awe.
A soundtrack from Matt Morton is sometimes contemporary, other times absorbing electronica. It always feels appropriate and helps with the truly breathtaking cinematic scope of what is on screen.
Apollo 11 purely captures the incredible wonder of one of the finest moments of human endeavour. It’s impossible not to feel excited by the ambition and reach of mankind’s designs as portrayed here. It’s the definitive word on the first moon landing and thrilling document to a singular moment of discovery and exploration.