Apollo 11

Directed by Todd Douglas Miller, Apollo 11 features never-before-seen footage and audio recordings that take you straight into the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission as astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins embark on a historic trip to the moon.

September 26th, 2019

“When we saw those first images come off the scanner, that’s when we really knew. It was jaw-dropping, to say the least”
– Director and editor Todd Douglas Miller

You might think that 50 years after humankind’s first steps on the moon, the world would have seen all of the best footage from that historic event.

But you haven’t seen everything.

“Apollo 11” isn’t like other documentaries about the first moon mission. In fact it isn’t like most other movies, period. It’s magnificent and unique, an adrenaline shot of wonder and skill.

Todd Douglas Miller, who edited and directed “Apollo 11,” tells the story entirely in the present tense, omitting the historian interviews and vintage news clips that you expect to see in films on this topic. Even though the filmmaker gained access to previously-unseen archival footage and previously-unheard audio recordings, and synced them to create an almost vertigo-inducing sense of immediacy, this isn’t a history lesson. It’s more like a psychedelic sound-and-light show, conceived in the spirit of a “trip” film like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Woodstock,” “Apocalypse Now” and “Koyaanisqatsi.”

And here, we need to note the shape of the image. It’s 2:1, twice as wide as it is tall—the dimensions of a science fiction epic, a biblical spectacular, a Western adventure, or one of those long “roadshow” movies that used to play in theaters around the time that NASA was preparing to send Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon. This choice was inspired by the rarest and most impressive new material unearthed for the project: 65mm motion picture film that was shot for an ultimately abandoned theatrical documentary. These images have astonishing clarity and density. Their vivid, cool colors will remind buffs of science fiction classics that were playing in theaters circa 1969.

When the story moves indoors to mission control, “Apollo 11” often splits the screen in the manner of “Woodstock” and other ’70s concert documentaries. The rock concert vibe is cemented by Matt Morton’s pulsing electronic score, which is based around an analog-era Moog synthesizer of the sort showcased on albums by The Beatles, The Who, and Stevie Wonder and heard in film scores like “A Clockwork Orange” and “Tron.” A title card at the end assures us that Morton’s score was created using only instruments that existed back in 1969.

– Review and notes from rogerebert.com


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