Review of In The Shadow of the Moon

Review of In The Shadow of the Moon directed by David Sington
Rating *** 1/2

This is the story of the Apollo moon landings as told by the men who actually flew to the moon and back. I owe my current career to the Apollo space program. I grew up during the nascent stages of the space program. Like everyone else in the world, I was glued to my television when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. But it was the flight of Apollo 13 that really convinced me that I wanted to be an astronaut. I can still remember standing in my backyard and looking up at the moon, knowing that there were three men in a tiny space capsule who might not make it back. I didn't become an astronaut, but like all of the early astronauts I did become a pilot.

This film doesn't cover the Apollo space program in detail as earlier films like the HBO mini series did. As a result, a lot of history is condensed, compressed, or just plain jumped over. Noticeably missing are interviews with some of the flight controllers such as Gene Kranz.

The main focus of the film is the events leading up to the Apollo 11 space flight. Subsequent flights are talked about out of sequence. The astronauts from the other flights are there mainly to reflect on the historical Apollo 11 flight and to relate their personal experiences. Unfortunately, Neil Armstrong is missing from the film. For reasons only he can explain, he has decided to refrain from talking about his experiences as the first man to step foot on an other world.

The filmmakers made the decision to let the astronauts themselves tell the story. This works for the most part, but because of the condensed time it becomes necessary to provide explanatory information between various interviews. To accomplish this, the filmmakers use text overlays in place of narration. I would have preferred narration. I could barely read the small text and half the time it was off the screen before I could finish.

The film makes good use of archive film of the astronauts and early flights, often splitting the screen and showing the then and now side by side.

The DVD has an audio commentary, which has some interesting background behind the making of the film. Anyone too young to have actually witnessed the moon landings should watch this film. Those of us who were lucky enough to see them, we'll also benefit from hearing from the men who were there.

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