In The Shadow of The Moon
directed by David Sington
starring Jim Lovell, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean
The great thing about the space program is we put a man on the moon. The sad thing is we won’t repeat that triumph any time soon – there’s really no good reason, what with the Russians no longer our mortal enemy and our general fear of rocket ships blowing up on CNN. In the Shadow of the Moon takes us back to those seemingly simple days when test pilots were bolder and America thought it could do anything, and usually did.
The story is told through the reminiscences of the 10 surviving Apollo program astronauts. Time and age gives these men perspective on life, fame and the value of their accomplishments. Some found Jesus, some served in Congress, and others had respectable military careers, but there’s one thing in common – all dealt with celebrity on a scale that mere fighter pilots aren’t trained to handle. My favorite was Michael Collins, the man who flew on Apollo 11 but had to stay and watch the command module. His sly humor made him feel like your favorite uncle, but with really interesting stories. Buzz Aldrin, nicknamed Dr. Rendezvous for his fascination with orbital mechanics, comes off pleasantly entertaining as well, while Alan Bean still seems in awe of the fact he was chosen to fly. What this movie avoids is controversy – no astronaut hijinks stories and minimal mention of the parallel and nearly successful Russian space program. We do learn that as Buzz Aldrin stood on the last step of the Lunar Lander, he was taking a leak into his urine bag. Weird, yet a bit touching.
Filmmaker Sington dug up some amazing archival footage from NASA and many other official sources. NASA obsessively films everything, as they never know when something bad will happen and detailed pictures will make the next flight safer. This footage is clear, in focus and suffused with that old Eastmancolor look that reminds you of a really good home movie. There’s even a disclaimer in the credits – “No CGI or animation was used in the production of this film.” We’ve come so very far since then…