Picture yourself in the year 1970 – The space race is over and we’ve already successfully landed on the moon twice. John F. Kennedy’s goal of, not only putting a man into space, but on the moon, has been achieved and then some. So when NASA tries to do it again, why would we care? No one remembers the third ship to discover America. But suddenly, all of that goes out the window when tragedy strikes – there’s been an explosion onboard the space craft and the astronauts are running out of air.
The events of Apollo 13 were the antithesis of the initial moon landing, when triumph and excitement was replaced with fear and hopelessness. Instead of the world coming together to celebrate, we came together to pray and hope that our fellow men returned home safely.
I feel like this is the driving force behind Ron Howard’s film version of “Apollo 13,” how it was a reflection of the society at the time and showed our strength in a moment of absolute terror. For all of its amazing technological achievements, especially making it look like most of the film takes place in zero gravity, the most effective moments in this film are on Earth, dealing with the very human and fragile reactions to this tragic news. From Ed Harris and Gary Sinise working tirelessly to find ways to bring them home, to the wives and families of these men and how they deal with the trauma and the press hounding them for reactions, to even stock footage of Walter Cronkite add to the love and affection of this moment in time.
And while the effects of “Apollo 13” are still impressive to this day, and the performances from Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton are effective when they need to be, they’re ultimately crammed into a small metal box and given orders on how to survive freezing to death and living on the very little oxygen they have left from their crew back on Earth. If this film was just from the perspective of the three men trapped in the lunar capsule, with no interactions from the men back in Houston, I don’t think “Apollo 13” would be nearly as effective.
Overall, “Apollo 13” is a loving time capsule to a near tragic event that turned into a triumph of science, quick thinking, and ingenuity. Ron Howard went to amazing lengths to make sure every aspect of the film was technically and physically accurate to how it actually happened, and it really shows, even down to the small details in the set design. There is a lot to respect about this movie, and it deserves every bit of praise it gets.
Final Grade: A-