It was one of America's greatest triumphs, and it occurred during a time when the country needed a singular force of hope to clear away the tensions and misery that plagued the face of the nation. "In the Shadow of the Moon" is a documentary exploring the space race of the 1960s and 70s, using the astronauts as the storytellers, recalling their adventures and doubts while they went about their work, unknowingly changing the course of history.
"Moon" is a deeply respectful motion picture, clearly endeavoring to shift the moon landings back to cultural regality, away from all the naysayers and cruel conspiracy theorists. It's a pedestrian journey from one end of NASA to the other, but it has the astronauts' involvement, and their various personalities and memories lend the film a unique rhythm than more glacial, upstanding archival endeavors would have.
Outside of a brief mention that beating Russia to outer space was the ultimate goal of the program, "Moon" focuses on NASA and how it paved the way to the moon armed with intelligence, colossal imagination, and the support of President Kennedy. The film is essentially a tale of how America pulled together something out of nothing, along the way finding a new purpose and renewed sense of bravery.
Hearing the thoughts and memories from Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, Neil Armstrong, and Dave Scott (among many others) is an absolute treat; each man digs deep into their experiences to express their amazement over the whole program, while also underlining that it was work after all, amidst all the innovation and risk. These are the interviews you want to hear recalling such extraordinary events; the first-person storytelling that puts the audience in the front row of history instead of the bleacher seats many historical documentaries are beholden to.
The second half of the picture is devoted almost exclusively to the actual moon landings and the hazards that consumed the program as they tried for this brass ring of space exploration. Director David Sington was granted access to the NASA vaults to piece together a new look at a very recognizable point of history. "Moon" is filled with unseen footage of lunar happenings and mission control room tensions, at times just eye-popping visuals. Nothing that's come from Hollywood has been this evocative about the moon landings or as authentic extracting the emotional impression and wonder of it all.
I can only imagine how excited "In the Shadow of the Moon" is going to make NASA enthusiasts, but even more important is how the film will restore some much needed luster to a historical event that has faded from view. We live a world that's bombarded with all levels of nonsense from media, politics, and our neighbors. What a treat it is to recall a time when all that was cast aside and a world united to cheer on the human spirit and embrace curiosity on an interstellar scale.
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