Thursday, August 23, 2012

Film Review of "Apollo 13" August 22nd, 2012

Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard, is an amazing movie in which Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon, portray the 3 astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert who were onboard the spacecraft Apollo 13 when part of the service module exploded causing their journey to the moon into a race to make it safely back home to earth. With Gary Sinise playing Ken Mattingly, the astronaut who was originally suppose to be on Apollo 13 but was cut 2 days before lift off because he had been exposed to German measles, and Ed Harris playing Gene Kranz, the commander in Mission Control, this film is a line up of top notch actors who portray the real life heroes with astounding believability. Add to that the magnificent music composed and conducted by James Horner, who later went on to compose the scores for Titanic and Avatar, and you have a must see film.

The story starts off with the Apollo 11 landing on the moon broadcast on Jim Lovell's (Hanks) TV, narrated by Walter Cronkite. Jim and his crew of Fred Haise (Paxton) and Ken Mattingly (Sinise), were Neil Armstrong's back up crew and they are slated to go to the moon on Apollo 14. When illness prevents the original crew of Apollo 13 from flying, Jim's crew is called in to take their place. They do so with enthusiasm and soon are ready to go until 2 days before the launch, Jim's told that Mattingly  cannot fly and that they have to replace him with Swigert (Bacon) or postpone their trip for a longer period of time. Jim protests but ultimately gives in and Swigert comes and replaces Mattingly.

So the crew leaves on Apollo 13 and the launch goes of without a hitch, almost. One of the 5 engines powering the craft quits before it's suppose to and they have a few heart stopping moments wondering whether they'll have to abort the flight until they're told that it's ok and the other engines will just run a little longer than the others. After that nothing goes wrong until day 3 when NASA calls up to ask Swigert to stir the oxygen tanks. Swigert flips the switches and an explosion happens setting off the master alarm. More things go wrong as they try to fix the problem and have no success. Then Jim looks out the window and sees oxygen venting out into space. Everything seems to stop for a moment as everyone realizes that this is much more serious than they ever expected. In trying to stop the leak, all chances of a moon landing are wiped away and the crew is forced to shut down almost everything and live inside a freezing space craft for 4 more days. In Mission Control everyone is rushing about trying to find out what exactly is wrong and how to get the astronauts home. It's a race to fix everything and correct mistakes but they manage to get the spacecraft close enough to earth to make a landing but when they release their service module as they get ready to splash down into the Pacific Ocean they see that the explosion that crippled their ship may have damaged their heat shield and without that shield it is impossible for their command module to pass through the atmosphere without burning up.

 No one knows if the shield will hold as the ship goes into radio blackout. Black out normally only lasts for 3 minutes but when 3 minutes turns into 4 almost everyone gives up hope until they hear static over the airwaves and the voice of the astronaut answering the call. With the triumphant return of the astronauts, the movie ends with a narration by Jim Lovell explaining what was discovered about the explosion after everything was said and done.

All of the actors in this movie did amazing jobs in portraying their characters. They more than exceeded my expectations. Ed Harris did an awesome job playing the stoic no-nonsense Gene Kranz that kept everything at mission control going. It's no wonder he got nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards and won the SAG award. Tom Hanks played Jim Lovell perfectly and was able to keep the team going and stay on top of everything. Gary Sinise was outstanding as the bitter Mattingly turned into hero as he helped get the astronauts home.The chemistry between this cast was very apparent and it earned them the SAG award for Best Performance By A Cast. Kathleen Quinlan played Marilyn well as she tried to hold herself together and give nothing away to her children. Her eyes were very expressive and said it all.

The music for this movie literally blew me away. James Horner did a magnificent job in composing this masterpiece.  His music was the glue that helped hold this movie together along with the superb film editing done. One of the best film cuts in the movie was us seeing the joy of Swigert getting told that he's going to the moon and then cutting straight to Mattingly being told that he's not. The contrast between the two characters is astounding. Another good film technique used was an extreme close up on Marilyn's right eye as she awakens from a nightmare that has Jim's mission ending horribly. During the launch of Apollo 13, they used CG technology to put us right over the launch space to give us a view from above as the rocket leaves the earth. That's something that would have been impossible to do in real life. The music always knew right where to come in and put the same feelings inside us that the characters in the movie felt. It's something you have to hear for yourself. (I'm going to try attaching a clip of some of the awesome music to this blog but I don't know if it will work.) Ok, I know the clip of music is almost 10 minutes long but you just have to hear the first 3-4 minutes or so to understand what I'm talking about. So don't think you have to listen to the whole thing, (although it really is worth it), but just listen to the first 3-4 minutes and you'll have a taste of what the music feels like.

Without a doubt this is one of the best films I've seen. If you haven't seen it then you're missing out on a masterpiece. If for nothing else, you have to hear the music; it is the best thing in my mind about Apollo 13. You'll also see the chemistry between the characters as they portray real life events with great accuracy. This is history in the making as you watch what happens in Apollo 13 because it really happened. Some dramatic license was taken but the film mostly stays true to the real life events and it is heart stopping. Go and see Apollo 13!!! You won't regret it.


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  2. This movie is wonderful! I agree that it has that "masterpiece" quality about it. Decades from now, people are still going to watch this movie and be fascinated by the acting. I thought the cast was phenomenal. The music, as you said, is stellar.

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