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Friday, April 3, 2009

Apollo 13 (1995)


Houston, we have a problem.

"Failure is not an option!". So says mission-control director Gene Kranz, played by Ed Harris, as mission control devises a way to get the astronauts safely home. Although initially viewed as a disaster (explosion in spacecraft which forces cancellation the the moon-landing mission), in reality it is a story of success due to resourcefulness. The astronauts must return to earth and splash down safely with only enough electrical power to run a coffee pot.

Probably the best of director Ron Howard's movies, it is well acted by stars Tom Hanks (as Jim Lovell), Kevin Bacon (Jack Swigert), and Bill Paxton (Fred Haise) as the three space-bound astronauts, Gary Sinise (mission-bumped astronaut Ken Mattingly), Ed Harris (mission control Gene Kranz), and Kathleen Quinlan (Marilyn Lovell). The movie was nominated for 9 Oscars including best picture, writing, supporting actor (Harris), supporting actress (Quinlan), music, and visual effects, and won for editing and for sound.



There are a lot of special effects thoughout the movie, including the entirely-recreated lift-off sequence from a bird's-eye viewpoint. The weightlessness scenes were achieved by filming in a KC-135 airplane that did a series of parabolic climbs and dives, allowing about 25 seconds of filming at a time.

An exciting 220 minute movie about one of the most-watched successful rescues in history, the DVD contains a good "making of" documentary, a commentary by director Ron Howard, and another by Jim and Marilyn Lovell. "Bill Paxton's home movies" were never located, and the "comparison with NASA footage" and the "extensive exploration of special effects" were brief parts of the "making of", not separate items. Text-based production notes and cast/crew blurbs, and a trailer. Undocumented feature is the isolated score which plays in its entirety at the main menu (can skip forward, but not backward, however). The 2.35:1 wide-screen movie has 56 (!) chapters. Highly recommend for fans of any of the actors listed above, the space program, or adventures in general.

"With all due respect, sir, I believe this will be our finest hour" - Gene Kranz

Review by K. Gittins


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