It’s fitting that the World Cinema documentary award at the last Sundance film festival went to In the Shadow of the Moon, which reminds us of a seemingly distant time when the United States was not so alienated from the rest of the world. This flashy tribute to the Apollo program, presented by Ron Howard, speeds through the history of the space race, glossing over tragedy and accomplishment alike, but the anecdotes of great men like Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins are as eye-opening as they are often funny. Collins remembers how he wanted to grab Aldrin and kiss him on the forehead when he and Neil Armstrong returned to Apollo 11 after walking on the moon, and his decision not to (instead, he awkwardly shook Aldrin’s head from side to side) speaks volumes about the era’s notions of masculinity. Later, Aldrin expresses pride in being the first (and perhaps only) man to take a leak on the moon, admitting to this while stock footage shows him taking one giant pause before jumping from the last step of the lunar module onto the moon’s surface. The Apollo 11 moon landing is significantly represented via striking stock footage few of us are likely to have ever seen before, with Collins recalling the way he was warmly received all over the world. “We did it!” they would say—very much in keeping with the essence of Armstrong’s famously gracious first words upon walking on the lunar surface. Sington lazily tacks on a message about our environment to the end of the film, but the accomplishments and spiritual epiphanies of these great men ultimately have less to say about greenhouse gases than they do about the sense of humanity the United States has squandered since the last man landed on the moon in 1972.
- 100 min
- David Sington
- Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Gene Cernan, Mike Collins, Charlie Duke, Jim Lovell, Edgar Mitchell, Harrison Schmitt, Dave Scott, John Young
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