by Bret W.
Ron Howard scores big with his cinematic retelling of one of the tensest moments in the history of Humankind’s race for space. As a theatrical reproduction of an historic event, it’s both gripping and moving. Howard successfully puts the audience right there in 1971, on the edge of our seats and hanging on every minute, just as the world was back then.
Telling the story of events that actually happened is tricky for filmmakers, because if we really want to know what happened we can look it up, either online or down at the local library (we all remember those buildings, right?). What the filmmaker has to do is to put the audience right there, in with the main participants. Howard does this with tight camera shots inside the Odyssey space capsule. He shows us the tension, the anguish, the sheer heroics of the men both hurtling toward the moon and standing on Terra Firma back in Houston, Tx. He gives us a glimpse of the engineering feats accomplished on that seven-day journey that turned a “routine” moon excursion into the single most solidifying event for Americans, and indeed, the Human race worldwide.
Talking to those people old enough to remember (not to make anyone feel old, but I was 2 years old at the time!), I’ve found that there are three events in a ten-year period that were significant enough that people remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. These are the assassination of John Kennedy, the retreat from Saigon, and the Apollo 13 mission. With this kind of attention given to this significant event, and with everyone knowing exactly how it will end, Ron Howard still gave us something to be tense about. This is not like Titanic, which had a human interest story thrown in to make the history interesting (how many times have you heard someone say “I know how it ends, the boat sinks”?), Apollo 13 IS the human interest story taken straight from history. You buy the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge.
I guess you can say I really enjoyed this film. Excellent acting, with standout performances by Hanks, Sinise, and Harris propel this story into Oscar-caliber filmdom. Again, Howard’s cinematic eye and an incredible score by James Horner tie up all the ends to make Apollo 13 one of the better films of the 1990’s.