Apollo 13

DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Scott Macdonald's film review of Apollo 13
Apollo 13

For once, an anniversary is being taken seriously. Apollo 13 hit the screens 10 years ago and, as a celebration of its unique qualities of factual reconstruction and personal dedication, a superlative DVD has been prepared. Three well-researched, extensive documentary features go behind the scenes and beyond the stars.

Lost Moon: The Triumph Of Apollo 13 is a multifaceted affair, taking in the filmmakers and the astronauts. It begins with a young-looking Johnny Carson interviewing the three survivors of the crippled mission and continues in free wheeling style by talking to just about everyone involved in the making of the movie, from director Ron Howard to the special effects guy.

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Jim Lovell, the original leader of Apollo 13, played by Tom Hanks in the film, is the authoritative voice. His presence is essential and never less than eloquent. He didn't realise it at the time, but his team was given less than 10 per cent chance of making it back. His wife Marilyn remembers and Kathleen Quinlan, who plays her, is terrific. Hanks admits to being a closet astronaut and describes the film as "real dream come true stuff." Producer Brian Grazer dubs Howard and Hanks "the accuracy police." The NASA control centre at Houston was built to scale in the studio, for example. Of all the interviewees, Kevin Bacon is the clown.

Conquering Space: The Moon & Beyond is a serious documentary that tells the story of space travel and the influence of the Cold War on America's efforts to be the first to the moon. Before that the USSR had made all the running. While US rockets were exploding on the launch pad, Russian cosmonauts were circling the globe. The Americans were losing the space race hands down. Gus Grissom, the second man to orbit earth, almost died when he splashed down in the ocean and the capsule door burst open and he was flung into the sea. On future flights, they ensured that the door could not be opened from the inside, causing him and two others to be burnt alive on the launch pad when a fire broke out and they couldn't escape.

Lovell went into space three times, orbited the moon, but never landed. He was on his way there in Apollo 13 when disaster struck. The history and the missions continued beyond the building of space stations, to the Hubble telescope, to the fall of the Soviet Union, to the use of the Shuttle, to the Challenger disaster, to the probe into outer space, to discoveries on Mars and other planets. The lights are still on. The scientists and space boffins remain enthusiastic and confident that this is the dawn of a new era.

Where have you heard that before? It sounds convincing, but then it always does.

Lucky 13: The Astronaut's Story tells it for real. Lovell takes centre stage once again and all the familiar characters are here in the flesh - not their movie doubles. It is a heart-stopping tale of ingenuity under stress. Fifty-six hours into the flight, 200,000 miles from home, an oxygen tank explodes, blowing a hole in the spacecraft...

The rest is here, either reconstructed with care and consideration by Howard, Hanks and a dedicated crew or told by the men who lived through it.

Unfortunately, the review disc that I was given did not have audio commentaries by Ron Howard, or Jim and Marilyn Lovell. The loss is mine.

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2005
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Oscar-winning drama about an ill-fated moon mission.
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Product Code: 8234124

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary by director Ron Howard; commentary by Jim and Marilyn Lovell; The Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13; Conquering Space: The Moon & Beyond; Lucky 13: The Astronaut

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