The day that Neil Armstrong took his fateful steps as the first human being to ever walk on another world, the entire Earth stood still. 50 years on, and the world is still mesmerised. Todd Douglas Miller and his team have scavenged the NASA archives to find reels of 70mm, 35mm and 16mm footage of the events. Much of this has been painstakingly matched with audio from radio communication and news footage to create a timeline of the events, which plays out in a brief but beautiful 90 minutes.
The look of Apollo 11 is so clean and crisp that it’s easy to forget that what is onscreen is real footage. The opening moments feel like the start of some hitherto unseen blockbuster, in the vein of The Right Stuff, Apollo 13 or First Man. The staggering vistas, combined with the slightly over-vibrant film-stock tint gives the documentary a heightened reality, and draws the viewer into the experience. This is especially helpful considering that this story has been told and seen many times over – most recently, last year, in the aforementioned, First Man.
It’s here that the only real drawback occurs. In creating a documentary solely from footage, existing contemporary news reports and NASA radio chatter, there is a mechanical feel to the entire escapade. We have the human faces of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, but the real subject is the mission itself. The accomplishment of reaching the moon is the driving goal to this spectacle – and spectacle it is, one best viewed on a screen the size of Birmingham.
The DVD itself looks and sounds gorgeous; by extension, it can be assumed that the Blu Ray version of the film looks better still. In terms of a package, though, this is a little bare-bones; the only extras included comprise the trailer, a two-minute making-of clip, and a context-free featurette on the score. Still, the film itself is 93 minutes of moon-landing bliss, and in that respect, needs no extra gilding.
Out on DVD and Blu-Ray 4 Nov 2019