Apollo 11 (4 stars)

Apollo 11

The 1969 lunar landing is brought vividly to life using a trove of newly discovered footage

The 1969 spaceflight that put men on the moon is brought vividly to life utilising footage that has gone mainly unseen up to this point, with the iconic body of grainy imagery permanently improved by filmmaker Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13), who edits, produces and directs. Inspired by 'accident' during one of Miller's corporate gigs, he's worked a trove of newly discovered 70mm film into a historic record, using a direct cinema approach which eschews voiceover narration and new interviews in the manner of 2010's Senna.

Independent archivist Stephen Slater edited down thousands of hours of audio recordings from 30-track tapes within Mission Control then matched them to silent footage. Also included is Al Reinert's beautiful stage separation sequence which was taken with a 16mm engineering camera which then ejected itself and landed with its own parachute for NASA retrieval. Not only do we see NASA working at full tilt in sequences that preclude any continuity errors, but also how precise every step needed to be and just a hint of how many things could go wrong.

The rockets are spankingly new and exciting all over again. On the blast-off site, dignitaries, along with locals, gather to watch history in the making. No celebrities are spotlighted, no reality or Hollywood stars but there are Krispy Kremes. There are also rotary phones, smoking indoors, beehive hairdos and crazy sunglasses. Amid this nostalgia is the painful reality that NASA teams were mainly white guys, with a few black men and women dotted in amongst them.

Covering the momentous July 20th landing, as well as Neil Armstrong's lunar walk, Apollo 11 is a piece of gleaming history, showing the youth, hope and enthusiasm of that time. For those who were alive then, it's as if watching a scene from a dream – where America still stood for something great. But no matter what your politics, Apollo 11 is a fresh look at a highpoint and, equally, an endpoint for humankind's aspirations to space.

Selected release from Fri 28 Jun.

Apollo 11

  • 4 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 1h 33min
  • Directed by: Todd Douglas Miller
  • UK release: 26 June 2019

Documentary marking the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing with never-before-seen footage and newly discovered audio recordings. The rockets are spankingly new and exciting, and it’s a piece of gleaming history showing the youth, hope and enthusiasm of the time.