Apollo 13

Synopsis: Nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, produced by Academy Award winner Brian Grazer and directed by Oscar winner Ron Howard, Apollo 13 stars two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris in the inspiring and riveting story of the real-life space flight that gripped a nation and changed the world.


Apollo 13 8.75

eyelights: its principal cast. its tension-filled tale of survival. its realism. its splendid production.
eyesores: its bookends.

“Looks like we just had our glitch for this mission.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not especially claustrophobic. While I dislike physical constraints tremendously, I don’t get in a panic over it; it’s possible for me to relax through the discomfort.

Still, I can’t imagine being launched into space aboard a puny craft.

It’s not so much because I’d be stuck in a small, enclosed environment with two other people (though that would prove a challenge), and it’s not even the idea of being shot from Earth at dangerous speeds.

My concern would come from not having an escape if I were to find myself mired in the cold of space. The idea that an accident could happen and I’d be stuck out there with no way to return freaks me out.

Heck, being buried alive is a more palatable idea: at least you can try to dig your way out!

So it goes without saying that the plight of the crew of NASA’s Apollo 13, which was launched on April 11, 1970, and found itself facing a series of technical mishaps during their mission, unsettles me.

Even though I know the story, even though I know its outcome, watching Ron Howard’s 1995 motion picture starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise and Ed Harris grips me every time.

Whenever I watch it, I feel like I’m in the capsule with the crew.

…with danger closing in on them.


It helps that the picture is immersive, providing the illusion of reality thanks to some truly fine performances (many of which were award-nominated!), brilliant costuming and set designs, of course.

…oh, and a genius surround soundfield!

Seriously, in ‘Apollo 13’, somehow the filmmakers captured the emptiness of space. In fact, the thing I take away the most from this motion picture is how you can actually feel the silence around the crew.

Man… I can only imagine what it must have been like in cinemas.

Interestingly, however, I wasn’t at all moved by the launch, something you’d think would naturally impress audiences. I watched, detached, as fire enveloped the rocket and it powered away from Earth.

Perhaps its due to the CGI, which never looks quite real, but did even less so twenty years; perhaps its artificiality denied me the ability to believe in the moment. Or maybe it takes more for me.

I do get into the story though: I really feel for those guys, who put their lives at risk for an uncaring nation, broadcasting from space to no audience at all – that is, until death was nearly upon them.

I also felt for Jim Lovell, who’d dreamed of the opportunity to walk on the lunar surface and came so close but couldn’t achieve it. Forget the fact that his ego precipitated his crew’s launch: poor guy.

The looks of realization on the crew’s faces when they’re asked to shut down, that they’re not going to the moon, speaks volumes. And when Lovell has to watch the moon pass by, sadness fills the void.

Tom Hanks walks finely through the part, allowing us to see the character’s flaws yet empathizing with him anyway. I can barely imagine anyone else pulling it off, given Hanks’ natural relatability.

He cements the crew with his genial demeanour.

But it’s Gary Sinise and Ed Harris who stole the show for me: both added a welcome intensity to the core cast, giving their characters the ability to power through the chaos and succeed despite adversity.

Plus which, in Sinise’s case, it leads to his character’s redemption.

SO good.

And when his Ken Mattingly finally succeeds, I actually get chills.


It’s impossible to imagine the stress that everyone involved must have been under in the days following the launch, but it’s amazing to see how they MacGuyver-ed their way from solution to solution.


It’s awe-inspiring, especially given the number of setbacks that they faced; it really seemed as though Apollo 13 was doomed, with everything working against them from start to finish (a typhoon, really?).

But, as we all know, they prevailed against all odds. And, though we know this going in, ‘Apollo 13’ still manages to take our breath away; there wasn’t a time that I saw this and wasn’t fully involved.

We can only thank the crew and cast of ‘Apollo 13’ for making this such a poignant cinematic experience. And thank the crew at NASA and in the Apollo who proved the ingenuity of the human race.

…and the spark that’s allowed us to survive through the ages.

I can only imagine how it felt when NASA got the crew back, when Lovell, Swigert and Haise set foot on Earth again; the relief the trio experienced after days of uncertainty must have been overwhelming.

Nothing could ever compare with that.

But, frankly, I’m glad I’ll never get to know.

Date of viewing: March 25, 2017

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