MRR Review: "Apollo 13"

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Based on the true story of the ill-fated 13th Apollo mission bound for the moon. Astronauts Lovell, Haise and Swigert were scheduled to fly Apollo 14, but are moved up to 13. It's 1970, and America have already achieved their lunar landing goal, so there's little interest in this "routine" flight.. until that is, things go very wrong, and prospects of a safe return fade.
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Movie Review: "Apollo 13"

Rating: PG (For language and emotional intensity)
Length: 140 minutes
Release Date: June 30, 1995
Directed by: Ron Howard
Genre: Drama and history

In "Apollo 13," three astronauts find themselves stranded on the moon after their spacecraft is seriously damaged. Together, they have to devise a way of getting back to earth. The movie was adapted from a book by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger titled "Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13." The screenplay adaptation was written by William Broyles, Jr., and Al Reinert. The film was directed by Ron Howard.

The movie opens in July 1969 as astronaut Jim Lovell (portrayed by Tom Hanks) holds a party for his colleagues and their families. The merry group watches as Neil Armstrong becomes the first mean to walk on the moon during his Apollo 11 mission. It is also during this time that Lovell, one of the members of Apollo 8, reveals to his wife Marilyn (Kathleen Quinlan) his desire of going back to walk on the moon.

A few months later, Lovell's boss, Deke Slayton (Chris Ellis), informs him that their mission has been moved from Apollo 14 to Apollo 13. Together with Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise), he begins training for this task. Just before the launch date, it is revealed that Mattingly has been exposed to measles, and he is replaced with Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon). As the launch date approaches, Marilyn begins to have foreboding nightmares about her husband's safety.

The launch takes place on April 11, 1970. The astronauts are able to ignore a premature engine cutoff, dock their service/command module with the lunar module as scheduled, and pull away as required. Things begin to go wrong three days after the launch, however, when a routine housekeeping procedure goes wrong and a tank explodes. The moon landing is aborted and the trio breaks up to complete separate tasks. Swigert has to turn off the command module before it runs out of power, while his two colleagues are tasked with preparing the lunar module to be used as a lifeboat on the journey back home. What follows is interesting, to say the least.

To say that "Apollo 13" is an uncanny experience is an understatement. This film is arguably one of the most dramatic and horrendous spaceflight stories ever told. It is a great American story of victory over catastrophe that will resonate well with many viewers. Its success lies primarily in its authenticity and its ability to revel in victory without appearing cocky. Every little detail was carefully thought out and designed, and even those who have not been to the moon will agree that the barren and eerie landscape in "Apollo 13" is exactly how the moon is supposed to look. To make it even more realistic, the filmmakers use historic news clippings in the movie.

Most directors would have handled this movie differently. For example, it might have been tempting to make it an intrinsically inspirational story at the expense of other subplots. Howard, however, manages to make it a semidocumentary and drama at the same time thanks to his more ambitious vision for the story.

The only problem is that the ending of the film can be predicted right from the beginning. It also includes a few of the cheesy macho lines that viewers have come to expect in these kinds of nationalistic movies. "Failure is not an option" and other similar phrases are dropped in a few scenes. Despite this, however, it is hard to resist the triumph that comes at the end of the movie, when the bravery and resilience of the astronauts prevail.

The performances of the lead characters, especially Hanks and Sinise, are spectacular. Maybe Hanks got his inspiration from the Academy Awards he received for his roles in "Philadelphia" and "Forrest Gump." The actors are able to elicit many different emotions from the audience: emotions such as fear, patriotism, and hope. In fact, the movie has been widely held up as an example of how a movie's characters can be made to resonate and connect with its audience.

"Apollo 13" uses a lot of special effects, but it is also one of the few films in which special effects are not allowed to upstage the real story and the performances of the characters. It is also one of the few drama films that have proved to be riveting without the traditional role of an antagonist. They say reality is stranger than fiction, and nowhere is this more evident than in "Apollo 13."

Rating: 4 out of 5