When you think of NASA, the images that come to mind include hurtling into outer space, the moon landing and countless launches from Houston. Images of several men in a large room full of computers and a lot of data isn’t quite what you’d think of as an American hero. It’s this perception that director David Fairhead is looking to change, he knows that it’s those you don’t see behind the scenes who deserve to reap the benefits of these extraordinary achievements. Fairhead is telling the story of the men who stay on the ground, all having a huge part to play before, during and after each Apollo mission.
The film goes through, in chronological order, the events of several Apollo missions, culminating with Apollo 13, the infamous mission which was later made into a film by Ron Howard. What is shown are clips from what can be called “behind the scenes” which is within the control room. The men who were in constant contact with the astronauts to ensure their safety was never compromised and that they could solve all problems by keeping in touch. During a certain section, we see how the errors during a mission helped those on the ground to create even safer protocols and procedures for the future. It shows the pressure that they were under to ensure these astronauts made it home safe.
The movie also explores the space race between America and the Russian’s Sputnik. The two countries were trying to be the first to get into space, which ultimately ends with the Russians winning. It’s a factor which plays into the film’s narrative in a way that almost makes you sympathise for the Americans who clearly made a valiant attempt at being first. It’s this which spurs them on to land on the moon, an achievement which has defined the Apollo missions.
Fairhead has created a documentary which shows the way things were and how those are still relevant today. The level of detail he has gone into from the old footage, to the interviews and the actually Apollo missions is astounding and fascinating. The handling of it’s complicated details isn’t dumbed down, however it’s presented in a way that makes you understand the enormity of each mission and all that needs to be achieved before they’ve even launched. He has shown that you can be a hero whether you’re up in the air or down on the ground.
You can see what David Fairhead had to say in my interview with him here.
4 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.