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In the Shadow of the Moon

Film Five Stars

When I was a boy I loved planes and the idea of flying fighters, I was also hugely entranced by space, and I'm sure that at one point I would have wanted to be an astronaut. However I was born forty years too late and born without the ingredient that made the great astronauts that were part of the space race and that landed on the moon. These are the men that are the heart and soul of the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon.

In the Shadow of the Moon is a documentary that talks with some of the astronauts that made it to the moon, or nearly to the moon and chronicles the journey of the Apollo spaceships and their human crew to that far away rock and back again.

InTheShadowoftheMoon.jpgIt touches on the challenges, the events on Earth, the amazing spectacle, but above all it looks to the people behind the seemingly incredible events, and just how human they are and what they felt about the amazing things they accomplished.

The documentary does the normal thing of having the men sitting in front of a camera, sometimes using extreme close-ups, most times pulled back to capture the full emotion and expression of these men as they tell their tales. Mixed with this is some amazing footage from Nasa that helps show the scale of their stories. As the opening titles say:

“Today there are seven billion humans on planet Earth, nine of whom have walked on another world.

In their own words, this is the story of the men who journeyed to, and walked on, the moon.”

To start with I'm going to talk about the only negative thing I felt during the whole film, well okay there were two things but one was a bad cut in the middle of the film which could well have been a local issue rather than a fault of the film. The actual negative I was going to talk about is how long it takes for us to see who these men talking to us are.

The titles against their names take some time to appear, and although it isn't really that important to know who they are and which Apollo mission they were on, it does lend a lot of weight to what they say, and even that little title elevates them in the audience's eyes from one of those seven billion to one of the nine.

One of the many great things about the documentary is how well it keeps focused on the human story that each of these men tell, and how it is kept incredibly personal. It could so easily have turned into something much wider, being swallowed by the events of Apollo 13, or the controversy of the allegations of faked landings, the first astronaut deaths, or even the politics surrounding the space program.

It doesn't though, and the filmmakers manage to keep the film focused entirely on the the human aspect, the personal view of these nine men, and it's a superior film for it.

These men sell the stories and the film themselves so easily. They are intelligent, eloquent, passionate, warm and charming on screen, and above all they are inspiring. They light the screen up and draw you into their stories, and you can end up feeling as much tension and emotion as any thriller or drama.

Apart from the men and their stories the next strong thing about the film is the music, it's used to great effect throughout and really powers home the emotion of the moment from the sad points of the film when they talk about the first crew to die aboard an Apollo to the funny anecdote of Buzz Aldrin's first on the Moon.

Then there's the stunning photography, and what's more it's all stock footage without enhancement or CGI, all the effects here are real, and they are stunning. However, they don't detract from the stories that these men have to tell.

The documentary is superbly put together and tells the story wonderfully. I was drawn in from the opening titles and lines, and hooked all the way through, both inspired and moved. One of the most powerful moments was hearing Mike Collins reading out the speech that President Nixon would have made had Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin not returned from the Moon.

Other times it is hearing the passion of the astronauts speak of seeing the Earth from space or the Moon, and the return flight when they could see the Earth, Sun and Moon rotate around them as the returned.

I came out of the cinema inspired and moved, and felt that I had been touched by something special and amazing as these nine men have. It's as though some of that amazing feeling that they got from being on the Moon and in space had rubbed off on me while watching.

A brilliantly crafted documentary with the most passionate and inspiring men to tell you their tales. It's a wonderful story with amazing images and some fantastic messages from the handful of people who have actually set foot on another planet.

As I left the cinema and wheeled back into normal, everyday life, I wondered if the human race is ever going to see further than its own nose, and would it take a trip to space for us all to see it.

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2007 News and Reviews
UK IMDB Film Details



Just a quick one I noticed while looking for the links for this film, there's another "In the Shadow of the Moon" being made. No details as yet, but it has an IMDB entry for 2009.

I liked the trailer I saw for this and was curious about how good it was going to be. Nice to hear it doesn't disappoint. I have a feeling this one is going to turn into a big event with the science groups around town here...when it finally opens.

Well one thing that it's done has rejuvinated my love for films about space. I'm going after Apollo 13 again and I'm definitely getting this when it comes out on Blu-ray, which I hope it does.


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