In the Shadow of the Moon

Posted September 28, 2007 in Film

This Sundance award-winning documentary about NASA’s brief binge of shooting men to the moon is another encyclopedic chronicle of talking heads and footage. But what footage! Dune buggies kicking up interstellar dust, rockets pushing themselves off Florida with their giant arms of fire, and the indulgent narcissism of sending cameras up in space and then turning them back to gaze at our beautiful planet spinning around. Neil Armstrong is still holding his tongue, but the rest of the astronauts dish about being the only men alive to live a dream that 40 years ago we all expected would be everyone’s reality. Relieved of the pressure of being stalwart American heroes, the gang eagerly admits they were just thrill-seeking yahoos who dug science. Buzz Aldrin cops to being the first man to pee on the moon (inside his suit) while Michael Collins, who piloted Apollo 11 and thus had to stay aboard and out of the history books, is rich with pride, enthusiasm, and unspoken regret. Director David Sington’s crowd-pleaser has enough ambition to pitch a one-size-fits-all philosophy based on the Apollo crew’s revelation that looking down from space, our problems seem trivial. (Weather, traffic, sectarian violence–who needs it?) That the lunar landing might not have happened–a theory that gains steam with every year NASA keeps its astronauts on earth–is saved for a defensive rebuke buried alongside the closing credits. Though Sington can’t resist some flag-waving, the most stirring moment is a montage of the whole world grinning, cheering, and hoisting their drinks for Apollo 11′s safe landing. History has reduced the Cold War Era space race to an icy Us vs. Them; it’s a worthwhile reminder that even when global politics are nasty, people themselves aren’t. (Amy Nicholson)


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