Apollo 11 (1996)
The Space Race
Guys, I think we're dead - Neil
With news of the Russians being nearer to putting a man on the moon than first thought NASA and the US Government step things up in the space race to make sure they are they beat them. It starts with NASA director Deke Slayton (Jack Conley) choosing Neil Armstrong (Jeffrey Nordling) to lead the mission and then things start picking up pace as the race is on. Whilst admin have to deal with being inundated by flag companies wanting their product to be the first one on the moon and the control centre working through drills making it extremely stressful Buzz Aldrin (Xander Berkeley) is under pressure from his father to be the first man to walk on the moon as no one remembers who is second.
It was inevitable that after Ron Howard gave us the big screen "Apollo 13" in 1995 someone would turn their attention to "Apollo 11" and do a movie about the drama behind the scenes in the race to be the first to put a man on the moon. But who would have thought that it would be a TV movie and one which does a remarkable job of drawing you in to the situation even if you weren't even born when this monumental event happened.
Now I have never been that interested in the aspects of real space travel and as such I have no knowledge of how much fiction is blended with the facts to create "Apollo 11" such as was NASA really inundated with American flags from various companies? I can imagine that happened but it adds a touch of humour to the movie which is certainly welcome because beyond that this movie is about the tensions behind the scenes. From seeing a member of the ground crew struggling under pressure during a drill to the mounting tension between everyone as not only the Russians get closer but the big issue of who will be first to step on to the moon constantly causes and edge.
The thing is that whilst the movie movies us towards the mission and we see various elements of the training the tension side of things almost becomes a case of repeat cycle as every other scene seems to focus on the stress these men are under and how short tempered they became. In a way director Norberto Barba needed to just dial back on the focus on the stresses and it wouldn't have felt like a movie which begins to repeat itself.
Now "Apollo 11" is a made for TV movie and whilst it does a great job of creating the look and uses a period soundtrack to great effect the budget limitations show themselves up in that overall production quality. It isn't the acting as all around it is great with Jeffrey Nordling and Xander Berkley right on their game as is Jack Conley but it just lacks that little bit of sharpness to make it stand out.
What this all boils down to is that "Apollo 11" is a remarkably good movie which even for those who don't care a great deal for space travel will find themselves drawn in. But it is even more impressive considering it is also a made for TV movie and whilst not perfect a lot more impressive than most TV movies.
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