GREAT ACHIEVEMENT: Astronauts land on the moon in 1969.

Apollo 11

  • Documentary; Cert E (Exempt); 1hr 33mins
  • Starring: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins
  • Director: Todd Douglas Miller

DON’T you just love it when a plan comes together?

Like the 1969 moon landing it relives, Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 is perfectly executed.
What is even more extraordinary than the mission itself is that half of the images we see in this movie have lain unviewed in a Maryland basement for 50 years.

The opening scenes of NASA’s giant crawler transporter moving the rocket onto the launchpad are, in themselves, mind-blowing.

What struck me as great about this film, however, is what it doesn’t contain.

There are no voice-overs, no re-creations, no interviews where elderly astronauts describe what happened and how they felt about it. This is a pure July 1969 experience with no interruptions from the 21st century, or any other time.

The only voices are the broadcasts of newsman Walter Cronkite, the recorded communications between the astronauts and ground control, the congratulations of President Kennedy.

Miller’s reverence for the footage is absolute. He has added nothing but some well-chosen background music and seamless editing. It tells the story of the mission from the launch to splashdown and the quarrantine that followed, demonstrating that the Apollo 11 mission is an event that needs no embellishment.

It is easy to see why this mission hasn’t been the subject of much in the way of dramatisations.

While there are many tense moments, dramatic films require something to go awry.

What is so astonishing about this mission, is that with all that might have gone wrong – and later missions proved that they could go very wrong – nothing did.

The calm professionalism and humour under extreme pressure that has become synony mous with NASA astronauts shines through, with not even the hint of a quiet swear word audible.

This is a film that simply cannot be missed by anyone with an interest in great human achievement.