Sundance London 2019 Preview - Apollo 11
Dir: Todd Douglas Miller
Starring Neil Armstrong,Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins Mission Control, Some Astronauts, Space, The Moon
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, NASA has opened up its archive to filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller and the result is a winning mixture of poignant nostalgia and breath-taking restored imagery. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins are all present, but play as part of the bigger picture, as Miller’s movie delves into the build up and execution of that historic mission.
As the rockets fly, the footage proves to be more remarkable than expected, digitally spruced up after all these years and, quite simply, amazing. The opening shot of the enormous launch pad rolling out on those huge tracks, the 300 plus foot tall rocket atop brilliantly sets the tone. Wisely avoiding any form of narration or contemporary talking heads, Miller instead very simply recreates the story of the mission from countdown to landing to splashdown, in gripping detail. Indeed, one of the film’s great strengths is how Miller manages to sustain the tension throughout, despite his audience obviously knowing the outcome, with such details as the technicians tightening the bolts on a valve on the rocket less than two hours before life off.
The moon footage itself – for the most part not digitally upgraded but left in all its original ragged glory – retains all the strangely beautiful alien quality it always has, although seen in more detail here than the usual cursory clips.
With great use of split screen, and a pulsing score Matt Morton, by Apollo 11 is a remarkable film about a remarkable time when the world united around a singular, albeit spectacular event. Inspiring.