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Film Review: In the Shadow of the Moon

Posted on by sam

In the Shadow of the Moon

Director: David Sington and Christopher Riley (2007)

It’s quaint to see a film apologise for its shortcomings before I’m even halfway through reading its description. In The Shadow of the Moon takes this one better by apologising for its shortcomings in the first sentence of its description, almost proudly declaring itself an unnecessary edition to a subject, (space travel and landing on the moon), that has already been explored at length. The term ‘a hard sell’ is used. I have to say I appreaciate the time saving aspect of this makers of In the Shadow of the Moon, but you really should leave it for me to make such declarations, otherwise, I might start to think you’re trying to distract me from an even more sinister flaw.

Picture courtesy of http://daybehindthepharmacycounter.blogspot.com

Actually; for an unnecessary documentary about traveling to the moon, this aint half bad, or a quarter bad, or even an eighth bad, which, if you’re not up on your fractions, means it’s pretty good. There are some faults sure, and I’ll nit-pick at the end, because that’s what I do, but this is a well-made, clever, interesting documentary. It focuses on the Apollo space programme itself, which isn’t a particularly new angle to take, but rather than hear from the scientists, members of the public, or those annoying ‘commentators’ who look back retrospectively and inevitably tell a story which could be shortened to ‘we all sat round the television to watch, it was good’, the story is told through interviews with ten of the astronauts who actually took the venture into space.

It’s these astronauts that make In the Shadow of the Moon so good, they speak frankly about the whole space programme, and, for military flyboys, are actually pretty interesting. Some really personal stories are told and emotions shared, and it’s interesting to hear how they felt about each other. There is a lack of first man on the moon Neil Armstrong, but to be honest that works, and allows the others time to actually tell more interesting stories about themselves.

There’s some nice use of archive footage; within the first twenty minutes not one, but two old 1960’s adverts have been shown, along with three excerpts from old 1960’s television shows. I’ll admit to being more than a little worried that the makers had been playing too much Fallout. Thankfully, the archive television peters out as the Apollo programme gets going, leaving them as a nice introduction, rather than a documentary murdering stylistic nightmare. Likewise there’s some nice footage from NASA headquarters during the various Apollo exploits, and they’re as revealing and interesting as anything anyone says, especially when accompanied by some mind blowing images from space. These images would, you’d think, help disprove the existence of monotheistic god, but, for some reason have left a few of the astronauts believing in the schizophrenic so and so. Perhaps certain members of the population have an inherent flaw, where performing an act that completely destroys the already discredited theory of an overly interpreted, missed transcribed book, actually causes you to believe in said book, or maybe they just pick astronauts based on their abilities and not beliefs.

I’ll get my nit-picks out the way now, I didn’t know much about the Apollo programme, except that 11 landed on the moon first, 13 broke down, with the crew being heroic enough to have an awful Hollywood film based on them and there are annoying retards who think the moon landing didn’t happen. I had no idea what the other Apollo craft did, and after watching In the Shadow of the Moon, I still don’t, except for Apollo 1, which ended in tragedy. What for instance did 12 do? Or 15? Or 9? If you’re going to interview the astronauts involved, you should probably bother to tell me what they actually did. There is a generic shot of some astronauts getting samples, but I can’t even tell you which crew did that.

Also, there’s an insane bit, where Apollo 11 takes off, and In the Shadow of the Moon suddenly lapses into five minutes of slow motion shots of fire while generic classical music blasts over the top. It’s completely at odds with the previous pacing, and has a jarring effect that isn’t good for any documentary.

Apart from those two gripes, In the Shadow of the Moon is excellent, and I particularly want to give a mention to Michael Collins, the astronaut who stayed on Apollo 11 while Armstrong and Aldrin went to the moon. If you’ve not read Twentieth Century Boys, you are frankly, a loser who has yet to gain the right to procreate, if you have, gold star, and you’ll know about the reference Friend makes to Collins being the loneliest man in the universe. He addresses that reputation, and blows it out the water; the man is articulate, clearly loved being an astronaut and is incredibly insightful. The type of man I’d go for a beer with, if I drank, and enjoyed socialising…………………………………………………………………………… and didn’t have better things to do.

Written By Sam ‘Some people call me the space Chimney Sweep’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

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