Pros: Only archival footage and negotiations, no interviews or comments from eyewitnesses; impressive dramatic editing; previously unseen footage; a unique opportunity to plunge into the atmosphere of 1969. Cons: No Apollo 11 / “Apollo 11”
Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
CNN Films Studios, Neon
Year of release 2019
The fact is that the film Apollo 11 from the beginning to the final credits contains only documentary footage filmed in 1969. No comments from experts and eyewitnesses of the events recorded 50 years later, no computer models and reconstructions – only pure chronicle, thanks to editing and the correct selection of music turning into a real dramatic canvas dedicated to the greatest triumph of human civilization.
The film contains footage taken by NASA at launch pad No. 39, at the cosmonaut training center, at the mission control center, on the Hornet aircraft carrier, after splashdown of the descent module, broadcasts from the on-board cameras of Columbia and Eagle, transmissions and negotiations conducted by the astronauts and MCC, excerpts from television and radio broadcasts. The only modern addition is a stylized late 60s style. the flight diagram of Apollo 11, however, it does not particularly stand out from the general style of the picture.
Many of the frames included in the film are taken from previously unpublished 70 mm film discovered at the US National Archives and Records Administration, shot during the preparation and conduct of the Apollo 11 mission. And I must say, the quality of these frames is truly impressive. Especially some everyday scenes that other documentaries did not pay attention to – negotiations between the Mission Control Center and the astronauts; people preparing to watch the launch of a spacecraft; astronauts in a quarantine capsule after landing, etc.
All materials, including rare 70mm film, which was transported in a special climate-controlled vehicle, were scanned in high resolution and catalogued. The production team worked with 11,000 hours of archival audio recordings, including 30-channel recordings from all Mission Control stations, recorded during the entire 195 hours of the lunar mission. The volume of video material was a little more modest – only a couple of hundred hours.
However, any raw film material, especially documentary film material, which does not contain additional comments and explanations, could easily become too boring and dry, especially when we are talking about a film with a running time of 93 minutes. To captivate the viewer, the correct editing was needed, not disturbing the chronology of events, but introducing the necessary dramatic effect, and Todd Douglas Miller showed some incredible level of work with the material. Apollo 11 has already collected a good harvest of awards specifically for editing and will probably win more at the upcoming major awards in 2019.
In terms of the drama of the events, Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary can only be compared with Damien Chazelle’s feature film First Man, which shows the same events, and I am not at all sure that the comparison will be in favor of the latter. It’s simply impossible to tear yourself away from the essence of the report about the flight to the Moon; it feels like you’re really transported back to 1969 and personally observing this epoch-making event. The atmosphere of the late 60s, the tension in the air, the feeling of belonging to something truly great – all this is in the film Apollo 11. Watching this documentary is perhaps the only way for those born later to feel what the people of Earth felt during those 8 days in July 1969
By the way, only after watching Apollo 11 do you understand how responsibly the creators of the series For All Mankind approached the recreation of 1969, the atmosphere that reigned in the control center, the decor of the premises and the selection of actors for the roles of real historical characters.
The premiere of the film Apollo 11 took place back in January 2019 at the Sundance festival. On March 1, 2019, the film was released in limited release, including IMAX halls, in the United States, and on June 28, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the first flight to the Moon, the film was released in some UK venues. The film appeared in digital form on May 14, 2019, and in 4K Ultra HD format on November 4, 2019. Shortly before the last event, the film was also released on YouTube, where it can be purchased or rented.
If you’re into space, Apollo 11 is a must-see movie, even if you’ve already seen dozens of other films about the event. In our opinion, this is one of the main contenders for the title of documentary of the year.
The most impressive documentary about the Apollo 11 mission