Apollo 11 is quite simply, breathtaking. I’ve never watched a documentary film that has sucked me into the time period quite as much as this film. The IMAX screen I saw it on felt like some kind of time portal, allowing me to peer into the day of launch, almost 50 years ago, for the shuttle that would take Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon and back.
The mesmerising nature of the film can be pinned down to a couple of things. The first being our continued fascination with space travel, something that is beginning to take off again with companies like Space X. Despite the naysayers who say things like “Kubrick shot the moon landing” will have a hard time saying this footage is fake. The evidence is there and when seeing this you really cannot deny that these things have actually happened. If it is, thank you, Mr Kubrick, for using large format film.
The second being the sheer brilliance of the footage that is used. Almost all of it was unreleased footage shot on large format cameras onto 70mm celluloid that NASA had kicking around in a vault for some reason. It was discovered, and then lovingly restored and results are completely bonkers. There is a clarity to the image that is so good, the latest box office busters with the best camera set up and the highest tech have nothing on it. The image is just that good. It is a spectacle on this front alone but
There is a realism to it. Obviously true since this is real footage captured during the event but the style and approach truly makes the film shine. Todd Miller is known for his approach to documentary filmmaking, usually implementing the direct cinema approach. This is when they use the audio and footage captured from the setting. It really helps suck you in. You’ll be stuck in this hypnotic, space-themed trance for the duration thanks to Miller allowing the footage to just speak for itself and do any heavy lifting. You’re just in awe of it for the entire duration. No talking heads interrupting your experience, just the full unaltered journey to the moon.
Everything is neatly explained by news recordings from the time and visual diagrams (the only modern addition to this piece) and this help to catch up the uninitiated, like me, and keep the pace of the documentary going. A special shoutout needs to be given to the score too. I read during the credits that the entire thing was recorded using instruments available at the time, a perfect topping to an already brilliant film. It pairs so brilliantly, similar to that of Justin Horowitz’s score for First Man where it matches the film so perfectly.
Overall, the film is completely breath-taking, think of an adjective that can describe a landscape or a whale and use that because I’m running out of words to sum up just how incredible this film is. I’ve never been into documentary films all that much, but Apollo 11 has converted me into being a space freak for about a week. I’ve been desperate to see it again but haven’t had the chance and knowing I’m unlikely to be able to check it out in IMAX is a real kicker because that is how this film is meant to be viewed. Sure, IMAX has millions of space documentaries, but this is like all of their old stuff of steroids. It’s a slice of history, a view of a monumental leap for mankind. The film just works on all levels and I cannot recommend it enough.
Have you managed to see it yet? Comment below and tell me what you thought of the film!