“One Small Step…” (Apollo 11 review)

Commemorating 50 years since mankind’s greatest achievement, ‘Apollo 11’ documents the eight-day lunar mission that gripped the globe. Using only footage and dialogue recordings from the time, it creates a stunningly visceral, thrilling, tense and emotional account of landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.

As documentary filmmaking goes, Apollo 11 is first class. Director/Producer/Editor Todd Douglas Miller has a remarkable grasp on the subject, and creates a stunningly gripping 90 minutes. From the moment the film starts, the pictures are gorgeous and iconic. The majority of the footage is previously unreleased 70mm archival footage and is therefore of a remarkable standard. Perfectly restored with stunningly vivid colours, the film transports us back to 1969 and easily keeps us there for the duration. Unfamiliar angles and shots give new perspectives to an already iconic event, with footage from the mission base giving a personal approach to the many scientists helping the lunar module on its journey.

Accompanying the stunning visuals is a rich and textured soundscape designed by Eric Milano. Here he blends the original recordings from the time with new sound effects and foley to fully immerse the viewer (similar to the techniques employed by last years ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’). British archivist Stephen Slater helped synchronise the iconic voice recordings with the new footage to give a full picture of Mission Control, and Ben Feist wrote a software to help improve the quality of the audio. The final creation is remarkable, and again brings the viewer straight into 1969 without losing the legacy of the recordings.

A new score, composed by Matt Morton, helps add extra tension to the already nail-biting events. Using predominantly electronic elements with some orchestral touches, his brilliant score is one that pays tribute to the grace of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s classical music, as well as feeling reminiscent of First Man’s more atmospheric approach.

What is so fantastic about the film is that it creates a truly breathtaking piece of entertainment that is worthy of the scale and grandeur of the event it is documenting. It never dramatises what isn’t there, it didn’t require any CGI or new performances. Everything on screen is direct from 1969, and demonstrates the astonishing feat of human engineering that was required to accomplish a goal of this magnitude in a brand new light.

Overall, Apollo 11 is an amazing documentary that is well worth your time. While revisiting mankind’s greatest achievement on its 50th anniversary, it’s difficult to not be roused by overwhelming pride for our species. For all our countless flaws, humans managed to send two men into space to walk on the moon. Whatever the motives were, the achievement is still breathtaking, and for this, pride is very much deserved.

5 stars 5

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