And you thought Titanic
was pricey--this dazzling documentary comes courtesy of the hundreds of millions of dollars NASA spent on moon shots, ethereally gorgeous footage that had never been seen until journalist Al Reinert, who had covered NASA for magazines prior to this film, got his hands on it. (Reinert subsequently coscripted Ron Howard's acclaimed Apollo 13
Reinert sifted through 6 million feet of film footage and 80 hours of interviews with astronauts, which serve as humble voice-overs for the lyrical imagery, and he assembled all this into a unique experience which was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar. Brian Eno's lovely, atmospheric score evokes the sense of peace the astronauts say they felt while floating through space; the film's spiritual quality is as affecting as its breathtaking visuals. "There was a great deal of difficulty paying attention to what our job was," admits one astronaut, and you can see why.
A major caveat--while this is mind-blowing on the big screen, it may be less impressive on your TV. Or, you can simply sit up real close. Who would've guessed that NASA was also a training ground for cinematographers? --David Kronke
The Criterion Collection DVD makes this indispensable record of the Apollo
space program even better. The likable interaction between director Al Reinert and Apollo 17
astronaut Eugene Cernan creates a noteworthy audio commentary. Reinert focuses us on how the images here are better than any other NASA footage and on curious mission facts (why the earlier Gemini
program created superior shots of the earth, for instance). Cernan, the most philosophical of the 12 moonwalkers, discusses at length the life-altering experience of space travel. By using the subtitle menu, each onscreen astronaut (and astronaut's voiceover) is identified. The film's sound and Brian Eno's evocative musical score has been remixed for a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. --Doug Thomas