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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

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Andrew Hicks read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
3.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

According to a recent survey, most Americans old enough to remember have forgotten about the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon. Let me confess from the beginning that I remembered only vaguely that something happened. Apollo 13 was the mission that hit disaster in space.

APOLLO 13 is director Ron Howard's tale of that jinxed journey. Howard is an extremely talented director who specializes in comedies such as PARENTHOOD and SPLASH and in realistic tales that are told almost in real-time like THE PAPER and BACKDRAFT. In APOLLO 13 he attempts realism approaching documentary style.

The movie is based on the book "Lost Moon" by Jim Lovell who led the Apollo 13 mission. In the movie he is played by the ever popular and brilliant Tom Hanks. The rest of the crew consists of Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon). The key member of the backup crew is Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise). The tale of the wives is a secondary plot and focuses on Marilyn Lovell (Kathleen Quinlan). The crew at the NASA control center is lead by Gene Kranz (Ed Harris), but is filled with a great second, third, and fourth string cast. Every actor was carefully chosen. Nevertheless, the science and engineering of what they did was the real star of the movie in my book.

The story is set in 1970. Apollo 13 was the second time human beings attempted to walk on the moon so, of course, Americans were bored stiff and did not care. In today's vernacular, they had been there and done that. I refuse to relate any more since it is the story itself that makes the movie. The story is incredible.

Other than the story and the perfect casting, the only other part worth mentioning is the period makeup and costumes. For someone who was in grad school at Berkeley at the time, it was great fun seeing again the heavy eye shadow, frosted lips, and strange hair styles on the women and the too tight white shirts with ties, black horned rim glasses, and big sideburns on the men. You also see lots of dirty smoking - think of it as a long antismoking ad given how vile they made smoking look.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, almost cried a couple of times, and was fascinated by the innovative engineering solutions they came up with, I found much wrong with the picture, and I expected to like it more than I did. First, I had a major problem with Ron Howard's directing. From start to finish the energy level in the picture was way below an acceptable threshold. Every action seemed drawn out and too low key.

The editing by Daniel P. Hanley and Michael J. Hill was another area needing improvement. It was exactly 45 minutes into the show before anything of interest happened. I know because I was watching my watch wondering when the movie was going to get started. Viewing this first part was about as much fun as watching a Cricket match. Nothing happened, and it took forever. The editor could have easily set up the picture with 15 minutes tops. Even after it started clicking, there were many scenes where the astronauts would slowly push button lots of buttons, and we were forced to slowly watch them.

Finally, given the subject matter, one might expect some incredible cinematography. Cinematographer Dean Cundey's images were okay, but nothing special. The music by James Horner was totally forgettable - another opportunity lost.

APOLLO 13 runs 2:11 which is too long given the pacing. It is rated PG for some mild cussing and for frightening situations. I think it would be fine for any kid old enough to understand what is happening which I thinks means 9 or older. I recommend the show for its history, science, and engineering and for the fascinating story, and I award it ***.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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