Apollo 13 (1995)
Almost Lost in Space
Houston, we have a problem - Jim Lovell
Whilst some young boys dreamed of becoming astronauts and walking on the moon it never really interested me as a child. But there were moments to do with space travel which did have an impact on my life such as the horrible day in 1986 when the Challenger shuttle blew up and of course Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, although with it happening before I was born was more of historical importance. One such important event in space travel I wasn't aware of was the troubled Apollo 13 mission, well not until I watched Ron Howard's brilliant dramatisation of the events.
For those unaware of the story "Apollo 13" covers the troubled and eventful space mission where Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks - Philadelphia) and his crew who were scheduled to be on the mission after next got bumped up the list. A straight forward mission which would see Jim follow in the foot steps of Neil Armstrong and walk on the moon goes disastrously wrong when a fault during routine checks leaves the space craft stricken with almost no hope of returning back to earth.
One of the most spectacular things about "Apollo 13" is not the acting or the special effects, although both are pretty special, but the way Ron Howard manages to take a story which many people knew and yet still turned it into an impressive drama full of tension, emotion, action without ruining the essence of it all. Right up until the end credits start to roll it keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering whether they do make it back to earth safely through all the adversity, even though the outcome of the mission is well known. It's a clever director who can achieve this amount of tension working with a known story.
It also makes "Apollo 13" a fascinating movie as it balances the obvious drama up in space as Jim Lovell's mission to the moon goes disastrously wrong with the trauma on the ground, but not just in the Houston control centre but also for the loved ones in particular Marilyn, Lovell's wife. It gives you a bigger picture if you like because you get all the action and drama of the stricken space craft, the turmoil and tension down at control as they try to work out how to get them back and the emotion of Marilyn as she is hopeless to do anything to help other than keeping family life as normal as possible.
Of course much of "Apollo 13" takes part on the stricken space craft and the whole recreation of not only being on a space craft but the way it became a floating wreck is without a doubt spectacular. The whole thing has an authenticity to it from the way the widows frost up as they try to conserve power, through to Fred Haise getting space sickness and the floating vomit. Even the subject of how do astronauts go to the loo is shown in such away that it looks amazing, as in the special effects, yet also humorous. It's the stunning special effects which help to build up the whole atmosphere and deliver a whole movie experience rather than being the purpose of the movie.
And to cap it off "Apollo 13" has a knock out cast lead by Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell but also features Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Kathleen Quinlan, Joe Spano and a Ron Howard movie wouldn't feel right without Clint Howard making his customary appearance. It's impossible to really single out a performance as being better than the rest and not a single one feels wrong. In many ways the fact that Tom Hanks didn't even get an Oscar nomination is rather strange, although having won it for the previous 2 years you wonder if they didn't want him to get close to a 3 in a row.
Are there any negatives well lets say that "Apollo 13" by its sheer nature is a very inspirational and uplifting movie and as such it does play on your emotions. For the final 15 minutes every second of the movie raises its game to make you feel connected to the 3 astronauts willing and praying them on. Now personally I loved every second of this because it hits home the message hidden in the story but for some it will feel heavy handed and too deliberate.
What this all boils down to is that "Apollo 13" is a great movie which turns a true story into an action packed, emotional drama. With great special effects and all round good performances from its stars it takes you on a wonderful journey through those events in 1970 which captured a nation.
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