by George Wolf
A majestic and inspirational marriage of the historic and the cutting edge, Apollo 11 is a monumental achievement, one full of startling immediacy and stirring heroics.
Just weeks after the debut of Peter Jackson’s time-traveling masterwork They Shall Not Grow Old, director Todd Douglas Miller also makes history live again through similar reliance on restorative genius and respectful restraint.
There is no flowery writing or voiceover narration, just the words and pictures of July 1969, when Americans walked on the moon and returned home safely.
The restored footage is so crisp and detailed (even more so in the IMAX version) that shots of a young Johnny Carson among the launch spectators stand as a bracing reminder this is not the latest big budget Hollywood production.
This is living, breathing history you’re soaking in. And damn is it thrilling.
From the capsule “home movies” of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, to the mission control checklists and ticking event countdowns, Apollo 11 immerses you in moments that will elicit breathlessness for the drama, pride for the science, respect for the heroism and awe for the wonder.
And still, Apollo 11 stands even taller for its own humble nature. Even in this grand scale, the film never feels like it is trying to deliver a final word, in fact just the opposite.
It is a salute to the thirst for knowledge and discovery with an invitation, on the near 50th anniversary of the iconic voyage, to reconsider the achievement.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check if there’s any theaters still playing First Man….