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Apollo 13 (Special Edition) (UK) (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000069736
Added by: Si Wooldridge
Added on: 3/4/2005 05:54
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    Review of Apollo 13 (Special Edition)

    9 / 10


    `Houston, we have a problem.` Probably one of the under-statements of history, uttered (on film at least) by astronaut Jim Lovell during the aborted moon landing mission of Apollo 13.

    There has always been something about space travel that fascinates, the ability to leave the world behind and see for ourselves what is out there; the final frontier that James T.Kirk was always talking about. There was a time, though, when it was a race between two nations and, at least on the US side, captured the public`s imagination and patriotic pride in the achievements of both NASA and the chosen few. Very high-profile disasters have united the world in grief at some of our attempts to push back boundaries, but generally today not many people seem to be that interested in space travel bar in blockbuster films of futuristic voyages and inter-galactic battles.

    It should also be noted that at the time of Apollo 13, the US TV networks seemed to think that the still infant space program was getting a little boring. Dropping coverage of the mission, including a live broadcast from the capsule, they only had their interest piqued when things started to go wrong. Of course, the Apollo 13 mission had a happy ending, and a collective sigh of relief rang out across the world.

    The commander of that ill-fated mission, Jim Lovell, was to have been the next man to walk on the moon. Something he never achieved, as Apollo 13 was his last space flight. Later, he wrote a book called Lost Moon detailing his experiences on that flight, the basis of which would be used by Ron Howard for his Oscar-nominated film from 1995.

    Tom Hanks stars as Jim Lovell, with support from Bill Paxton (Fred Haise), Kevin Bacon (Jack Swigert), Gary Sinise (Ken Mattingly), Ed Harris (Mission Controller Gene Kranz) and Kathleen Quinlan (Marilyn Lovell).


    Very impressive visuals and some neat FX shots. The zero gravity effects were actually achieved by utilising NASA`s KC-135 aircraft and performing parabolic arcs about 500 times. Each arc would provide a weightless effect for approximately 23 seconds and a mock of the Apollo 13 capsule was built into one of these jets, somewhat against expectations, to achieve a realistic depiction of one of the crucial elements of space travel.


    An impressive 5.1 mix with a stirring soundtrack from James Horner.


    Disc 1:

    Commentary from Ron Howard: a dry and controlled commentary from the ex-Happy Days man, the one quote I`ll remember, as he said it soooo often, will be `some great work from Digital Domain`

    Commentary from Jim and Marilyn Lovell: very good commentary from two of the main participants, powerful testimony of the events depicted from both the guy at the sharp end and the wife left on Earth with no information on what was happening bar the squawk box that picked up transmissions between Apollo 13 and Mission Control. As an ex-astronaut, Jim Lovell is a bit of a stickler for complete accuracy (contrails on low-flying aircraft, gantries falling away from the rocket individually) rather than really understanding artistic licence but this makes it all the more interesting.

    My only complaint about the commentaries is more about the subtitles. Where there is a pause in the commentary (and it happens a fair bit) the subtitles switch to the dialogue in the film. I felt that was a little intrusive myself.

    Disc 2:

    Lost Moon: The Triumph Of Apollo 13 - documentary lasting about an hour that describes both how the film was put together and the story of Apollo 13. Includes interviews with cast and crew plus the real-life participants to give this feature a stamp of authority. Very interesting, if a little sketchy on some of the effects.

    Conquering Space: The Moon And Beyond - 50 minute documentary that follows the evolution of space flight from the launch of Sputnik all the way through to the loss of the Columbia. Also provides information on current space exploration via the Viking unmanned flights and speculates on where NASA will be going next. An excellent addition to this release.

    Lucky 13: Astronaut`s Story - a 12 minute feature that goes over the Apollo 13 story again. No repetition from the Lost Moon documentary that I could see though and short enough that you don`t get bored by sitting through the events yet again.

    Theatrical trailer


    Apollo 13 is an impressive piece of work that documents almost completely accurately an important moment in history. Bar some minor artistic licence and a few factual errors, Howard and Hanks manage to pull off the feel of an epic journey that had all the makings of a National disaster for the US. Using Lovell`s book and also the transcripts of actual transmission logs gives the script a commanding authority not often seen on the film screen.

    The central performances are all good, with Quinlan and Harris in particular standing out (both were Oscar-nominated for their roles here). Hanks was at the point where he was really starting to pick up a reputation as a major Hollywood player and fine actor, having completed both Philadelphia and Forrest Gump in the two preceding years, and does not disappoint here.

    A lesser film would have focussed on purely the events happening in space, and Howard admits he nearly fell into this trap himself. Instead he puts in three major arcs; following the stricken astronauts, the people manning Mission Control and Marilyn Lovell and family. This not only helps to break the story up quite neatly, but also adds in perspective you would not normally see (especially the family left behind) whilst actually heightening the tension. It`s a skilful blend and hits just the right notes at the right time. Overall this film is quite a powerful experience and very moving. You know what the outcome is going to be, but the tension is so real and so thick that you`re never really sure if everything will turn out ok after all. Surely one of the films of the 90`s and a must-see for aficionado`s of true-to-life cinema and/or space travel.

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