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Apollo 13 Movie Review

Apollo 13 (1995)

Rent Apollo 13 on Amazon Video (paid link) // Buy the book (paid link)
Written by: Jim Lovell & Jeffrey Kluger (book), William Broyles Jr. & Al Reinert (screenplay)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris
Rated: PG
Watch the trailer

NASA must devise a strategy to return Apollo 13 to Earth safely after the spacecraft undergoes massive internal damage putting the lives of the three astronauts on board in jeopardy.

Based on a true story gives this a big impact as the crew in space struggle to survive while NASA on the ground tries to figure out a solution. This captures humanity’s quest to reach for the stars and their ingenuity to devise a solution for an insurmountable problem. Combining that with a great cast and an attention to detail provides quite a movie. The realistic weightlessness adds even more credibility to the space sequences.
Watch It.

This opens with Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) watching with the rest of the world Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 mission where he walked on the surface of the moon. It was an amazing achievement in the history of Earth. Jim is scheduled to command the Apollo 14 mission, but gets bumped up to Apollo 13. The crew make a few jokes about the number, never imagining what that could foreshadow.

This is a movie fascinated with space. The cast and crew in this movie grew up watching it on television, and because of that they created this movie. It’s as close as any of them will get, bringing fantasy to reality. Director Ron Howard didn’t want to use any stock footing, creating meticulous interiors for the shuttle and simulating weightlessness. Shuttle shots were filmed on a “vomit comet” plane that flew in a low arc to create the look and feel of true weightlessness.

Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Bill Paxton play Jim Lovell, Ken Mattingly, Fred Haise

While the Apollo 13 crew of Jim and Fred (Bill Paxton) lose Ken (Gary Sinise) to measles days before launch, he’s replaced with Jack (Kevin Bacon). Jim doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the moon. On launch, day they lose an engine, but don’t abort.

One of the disappointing things for ground control that the crew don’t realize is that the world doesn’t care as much. Their launch doesn’t even make it on to television. It’s not news anymore. Then they have a major issue. They lose oxygen, have to close the fuel cells, and lose CO2 filters. The world becomes transfixed, wondering what will happen to this crew. The astronauts and ground control try to solve the issue to no avail. While Jim is disappointed he won’t set foot on the moon, now he’s unsure if they’ll even make it back to Earth.

Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks play Fred Haise, Jack Swigert, Jim Lovell

This is a monumental problem where they must fit a square peg into a round hole. Houston has everyone working on the issue while the astronauts barely survive in the lunar module to conserve resources. Through perseverance and determination, Houston creates a solution that gives them the slimmest of chances.

The crowning moment of this movie is the blackout. Shuttles lose communications when re-entering the atmosphere. For Apollo 13 it takes much longer than normal. Ground control fears the worst, the audience hopes for the best. No one knows if the shuttle is even capable of re-entry. The movie lengthens this moment as fear and hope runs rampant in those deciding moments.


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