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Apollo 13

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Apollo 13

Starring: Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise
Director: Ron Howard
Rated: PG
RunTime: 140 Minutes
Release Date: June 1995
Genres: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Kathleen Quinlan, David Andrews, Xander Berkeley, Christian Clemenson, Brett Cullen

Review by Andrew Hicks
3 stars out of 4

This is a brilliant piece of filmmaking. The directorial style shown by Ron Howard comes a long way from the hooker/corpse comedy NIGHT SHIFT and deftly mixes new footage with old newsreel shots and computer-animated effects. And the performances from Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon (in his best acting job since the original FIRDAY THE 13TH -- that's a joke, by the way), Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and the rest are great.

So why's it only a three-star movie here? Well, it's in the same boat as QUIZ SHOW for me--a movie dramatization based on a true-life event from the distant past (distant meaning before I was born). It's good drama, but it has no personal meaning for me. I'm only 17 years old. Now if it was based on an earth-shattering event from my lifetime, say the Gulf War or the tragic transition of "Saturday Night Live" from funny to godawful, I might be able to drum up some emotion. But for now, I see APOLLO 13 as a compelling yet flawed movie.

For starters, the first thirty or more minutes of the film are way too boring and unnecessary. Do we really need to see the homelife of the astronauts and their three months of training and preparation for the Apollo 13 mission? No, just tell us they're astronauts and get to the actual flight. It's this early, expendable stuff I don't like. It's supposed to make us get to know and care for the characters, but what it does is make us get sick of them toward the end, when the movie's running long, and hope they'll get sucked into the vacuum of space so the movie will be over.

If you're somehow ignorant of the movie's plot, Hanks, Bacon and some other guy are astronauts on a routine moon mission fraught with tragedy. (I think that was the first time in my life I ever used the word "fraught.") It's based on the actual week in 1969 when the nation held its breath for our Apollo 13 astronauts, stuck in space after a freak explosion screwed up their controls. The odds are infinitessimal that they'll make it back to earth alive, so each step of the journey is milked for all the suspense it can get. Then, when they finally do make it past that individual obstacle, a new obstacle arises to take it's place, obstacle after obstacle until the end of the movie.

Forgive the skimpy plot summary, but everyone's already seen this movie. I, in fact, was the second-to-last person in America to see it. So if the other guy's out there, e-mail me and I'll send you a longer summary. Plus I'm writing this at two in the morning, which also explains the lapses in coherency from time to time. But don't allow my three paragraphs of criticism to keep you from seeing a good movie. I'm in a unique position as a movie reviewer who's too young to fully appreciate the historical context of some movies. Now, if they'd make that docudrama tracing the decline of "Saturday Night Live" I was talking about...

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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