Apollo 11

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Fortuitously, this DVD arrived from Netflix so we could watch it amidst all the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the event. It's a bare-bones documentary, using a considerable amount of recently-unearthed 70mm footage, never before seen. The movie was released in IMAX theaters earlier this year, and watching it off a DVD at home is a definite second-best. But it's still good.

All the footage is contemporaneous. There are no after-the-fact interviews, no what-does-it-all-mean chin pulling, and only a little effort to drag in contemporaneous events. (There's one reference to Teddy Kennedy's Chappaquiddick accident, one report of the Vietnam War being relatively quiet.) The sonorous voice of Walter Cronkite is occasionally heard. Also Richard Nixon.

So there's not a lot that's new for those of us who obsessively followed the mission 50 years ago. But (hey) I didn't know that the astronauts played John Stewart's "Mother Country" on their tiny tape player on the way home. In a brilliant moving moment, the filmmakers replace replace the tinny playback with the high-fi version. This might be the most patriotic movie moment I'll experience all year. "Oh, mother country, I do love you…".

This movie also shows the picture of Neil Armstrong in First Man to be (at best) misleading. First Man's Armstrong was a closed-off introvert; but the real Armstrong here is affable and upbeat, occasionally funny.