2019 Film Reviews - 41: Apollo 11 [dir. Todd Douglas Miller; 2019]
What’s most extraordinary about Miller’s Apollo 11 documentary is that even though you know the beginning, middle and end of the story before you watch the film, even though Nasa’s moon-landing mission was relatively unproblematic and even though the proceedings aren’t character led, you are rooted to your seat and glued to your screen from the moment the movie begins. One event follows another in predictable fashion - using cleaned-up footage from the time, with no voice-overs or interviews - but not for one moment are you inclined to look away. This could be a testament to the power of purely image-driven narrative: all those meaning-heavy shots of worried faces peering into screens, unfamiliar landscapes looming into view, counters ticking by on the screen indicating velocities increasing, distances growing, fuel depleting. Or it could partly be the magic of Matt Morton’s hypnotic, synthesizer-heavy score. But whatever the reason, I dare say the flight to the moon and back has never been presented in a manner that is quite as dramatic as this and that truly conveys the scale of the collaborative achievement it represented. Gripping stuff.