July 1969. I was barely two, so I don’t have any real memory of watching history unfold on television, as NASA attempted (and accomplished) its most daring mission ever: to put a man on the moon. Fast-forward fifty years, and I can almost believe I shared the moment in real-time with millions of other Earth-bound spectators. That’s what makes this new documentary so darned cool (especially in IMAX). It’s not just a rehash of the oft-seen grainy footage of astronauts in bulky suits skipping along dusty craters and planting the Stars and Stripes. Apollo 11 offers a much wider view, literally and figuratively, thanks to the discovery and restoration of a trove of 65mm wide format footage and more than 11,000 hours of previously-uncataloged audio recordings.
The documentary takes you inside the mission, without adding the clutter of talking heads or voiceover. There’s in-the-moment perspective from the astronauts, from Mission Control, from the crowds that gathered on Florida beaches for the launch, and from the ship that plucked the crew from the Ocean upon their return. And of course, dramatic footage of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasting off, circling Earth, and getting home safely, with Armstrong and Aldrin enjoying that unprecedented excursion to the moon itself. The film is tense, immersive, informative and entertaining. A perfect way to salute the 50th anniversary of the historic event and reflect on what can happen when a nation and its people share a united sense of vision, ingenuity, sacrifice and resolve.
The film is showing on IMAX for a limited time, one-week only, beginning March 1. That’s the way it deserves to be seen, so I hope it circles back to IMAX eventually. Otherwise, it will show up in more theaters, in wide release, starting March 8, before making its way to the small screen (sacrilege!). Check it out!