Meet the movie that every astronaut training movie aspires to be – “The Right Stuff.”
This three hour movie chronicles the life and times from when we first broke the sound barrier to early days of the Mercury astronauts and their journeys around our planet, with a particular focus on the adventurous and wild test pilots the military and NASA used to achieve these lofty and dangerous goals. “The Right Stuff” gives each achievement, each little victory and each leap for mankind the gravitas it truly deserves, letting the audience savor these discoveries as much as our characters do.
While the film feels like a documentary at times, taking its time to accurately show how everything unfolded, the pure joy of the Mercury astronauts get as they see the Earth from a whole new perspective and joke with each other as one has to wait for hours to go to the bathroom is where “The Right Stuff” truly shines. The film doesn’t try to show people like John Glenn (Ed Harris) or Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn) as living legends or gods, but as flawed men who made as many mistakes as the rocket engineers and the government that pushed them so that we would compete with Russians and their space race. The moments of levity and awe are a wonderful compliment to the man failures and challenges of doing something that no one has ever attempted.
For people who want to reach out to the stars and see what’s beyond Earth, this film feels more human than historical.
“The Right Stuff” does feel much longer than it needs to be, but considering what it is trying to tell and the amount of history it wants to recap, the three-hour runtime feels justified. That being said, it does start out slow and focuses a bit too much on the personal lives of the test pilots than it had to. But once the film starts testing the pilots to become astronauts, around 45 minutes into the movie, things really start picking up and never lets go.
Overall, “The Right Stuff” is one of the more fascinating and humble depictions of the first astronauts. The journey from test pilots to breaking the sound barrier to astronaut training and beyond is an admirable and epic one that takes the proper time to slow down and savor both the little and big moments. Certainly a space epic worth checking out.
Final Grade: A-