out of Five
Running time: 100
Thoroughly engaging documentary that takes a fascinating look at the moon landings using some breathtaking never before seen footage and some remarkably candid interviews with the surviving astronauts.
What's it all about?
Between 1968 and 1972, the USA's Apollo Space Program sent nine spacecraft to the moon, and twelve men walked on its surface; thirty-five years later, those twelve men remain the only humans ever to have set foot on another planet. British director David Sington's fascinating documentary traces the history of the Space Program using interviews with the eight surviving moon-walkers (except the reclusive and enigmatic Neil Armstrong, whose absence is never explained) and features some breathtaking never before seen NASA footage, such as a beautiful shot of the lunar module coming up from the moon towards the orbiting rocket.
Sington has assembled an impressive collection of archive footage that traces the beginnings of the Space Program, including President Kennedy's inspiring 1961 challenge to reach the moon within the decade. There's also an extremely amusing sequence over the end credits where the astronauts take it in turns to debunk the conspiracy theories (Why would we fake it NINE times?
The interviews are genuinely fascinating and reveal amusing details, such as how Buzz Aldrin acquired the nickname Doctor Rendezvous and how Armstrong was completely unfazed by an incident where he bailed out of a test flight seconds before being killed (incredibly, we actually see it happen). More poignantly, Gene Cernan talks movingly about the fact that if he hadn't been in the Space Program he would most probably have died in Vietnam alongside many of his friends, something he still feels guilty about.
The news footage of the time is equally fascinating (Presenting the epic journey of Apollo 11…sponsored by Kellogg's!
), particularly when we see shocking footage of the explosion that killed the crew of Apollo 1 and hear the newsreader's voice cracking. There's also a delightful montage of happy smiling faces as the world reacts to Armstrong's first steps on the moon.
In the Shadow of the Moon is an impressively directed, utterly fascinating documentary that is genuinely awe-inspiring. Highly recommended.