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Apollo 11  rating

History made startlingly current

It’s a well worn cliché to describe a movie as ‘bringing history to life’, and yet this really quite unique documentary does just that. It’s a retelling, or more accurately re-showing, of the Apollo 11 mission that landed man on the moon and brought him safely back to Earth. I’ve seen and listened to that story many times in different forms – talking heads documentaries, interviews with astronauts and engineers, movies showing the event – the recent ‘First Man’ was pretty definitive on the subject. And yet this little movie quite startled me. Why? Well, it has used recently made available 65mm film of the era which is absolutely pristine – and now remastered in 4K (the format in which I saw it, and would recommend it). The whole thing is shown in chronological order from the Saturn V rocket trundling along towards its launch pad, to the capsule arriving back on Earth, with only voices recorded from the time. No voiceover narration or interviews are used, only voices from the time, such as Nasa staff or the distinctive tones of Walter Cronkite, to tell us what is going on.

I’ve seen stuff I feel I have never seen before – and as a result I’ve felt like I’ve never felt before, about this incredible endeavour. There was a moment when the lift is heading up the gantry to take the astronauts to their capsule, and combination of crystal clear high definition images, the mundanity of the idea of being in a lift in stark contrast to what it is they are alongside, and the metallic clunking that sounded immediately recognisable from half a dozen other industrial lifts I have been in, that made me feel, for a moment, that I really could put myself in their shoes.

There is a score – a low key affair which genuinely ramps up tension in places. But it is the pristine visuals which will blow you away.

In short this movie makes you feel more present at the events, and makes the Moon mission more tangible, than any documentary I have seen before. Nothing new is really shown, but the journey will feel completely new to you.

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