Apollo 11 – Review

The American flag is predominantly featured and the flag is planted. Are you all happy now?

Apollo 11 is the brand new documentary directed by Todd Douglas Miller. It features never before seen footage and audio recordings which take you straight into the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission, as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin embark on a historic trip to the moon.

This is the first time I’ve had to take a different approach to review a movie because this is really unlike anything I have ever seen. A typical documentary has a lot of interviews that will give insight into all the information needed, which a standard documentary typically delivers on. However, Apollo 11 plays by its own rules instead. The whole entire documentary is made up never before seen 70MM footage, that was shot during the entire process of the 1969 mission from the control room of NASA, all the way to the people watching and camping, witnessing the launch, of the brave Americans who decided to go further. It’s all cut together perfectly, almost feeling like an actual film at certain points, due to how the real footage is edited together so intricately. From that moment forward, it made me realize I cannot judge Apollo 11 like a typical film or documentary. Apollo 11 is a technical marvel of a documentary that will surely be a film to be shown in future history classes as inspiration. 

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Technically, Apollo 11 is one of the most impressive things I have ever witnessed. Keep in mind that the majority of the footage was shot 50 years ago and some of the footage (especially the scenes taken place in space) does show it’s age. However, the rest of the footage was so beautifully restored that I was mistaken at many points that the footage was shot recently.  What blew me away most of all was how they were able to film so much in space back in 1969, without having the cameras simply malfunction. The film is also impressively edited together, with all of this footage and clips, showing a real progression of time and structure. 

Apollo 11’s timing of the release is also perfect not only because of the 50th anniversary of the Lunar mission, but it’s also a great companion piece to the Damien Chazelle’s film, First Man. In Chazelle’s film, he decided to look more into what we don’t know about the brave men who went into the mission, and the amount of stress they went through to achieve their goals. Apollo 11 does show what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did to achieve this mission, but it also shows the mission process NASA did while working with Armstong and Aldrin, while simultaneously showing how the regular civilians decided to camp out and watch this historic event take place. Apollo 11 reminds us of the sheer amount of hard work that went to this mission and how this was all possible all the way back in 1969.

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There are only a few problems with the documentary. Some of the restored audio of the mission is well mixed and rendered, while other audio segments were really hard to comprehend, which made me wish there subtitles so the audience could clearly make out what was being said at times. I also felt that a few minutes could have be cut out of the documentary to smoothen’ the pace at some points.

Apollo 11 is something that all fans of space films and documentaries need to see. It does take a lot of time and patience to watch and observe, but this is a technical marvel that allows the audience to experience the mission that changed the world. This film is so different from anything I have seen, that I feel wrong giving it a rating since it’s not really trying to be a movie, but rather a cinematic experience. However, all I can say is go see this movie because it’s truly something that needs to be experienced!

Note: I would like to add that I watched Apollo 11 in an IMAX theatre and I can definitely say that IMAX enhances the experience. It fills most of the frame and the sound mix immerses the audience even more. Viewing Apollo 11 in a regular theater will probably be fine but if you have the option, the IMAX experience is worth seeking out.

Apollo 11 is currently playing in IMAX and will expand in Standard Formats on March 8th

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