Monday, 27 January 2014

Apollo 13, 1995

Apollo 13, 1995, USA
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary sinise and Ed Harris

Gentlemen, what are your intentions... I'd like to go home

Apollo 13 may not be the definitive space movie, but it certainty has been deemed an accurate portrayal of the experience of space travel and the consequences of mission failure. Whilst this film does entail a quintessential Hollywood-esk, I personally found it an entreating film about the real life events of the Apollo 13 mission to the moon.

After the success of the first ever moon landing conducted by Neil Armstrong in 1969, NASA decide to send a new crew to the moon on a mission coined as “routine” by the media and American public. After the loss of Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) as the ships pilot and the induction of Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) the crew is blasted off into space only to find that there spacecraft is to undergo massive mechanical faults, threatening the mission and the lives of the astronauts inside.

This is an impressive looking film and had many good elements to it. However it lacks any standout performances and doesn't feel as good to watch as some other Ron Howard films such as Beautiful Mind. And, whilst it does convey the fears and stresses of and between characters, it isn't very exciting. I also two think that almost the entire first half of this film is unnecessary and kinda boring. Also too, some characters and scenes feel totally irrelevant to the storey and can be painful at times, such as the inclusion of Jim Lovell's mother. Furthermore, I did not like the manner in which some characters were introduced into the film.

The majority of this film is short in two primary locations, at the Houston command centre, and aboard the Apollo 13 spaceship. Appropriate filming techniques have been employed by Ron Howard and Dean Cundey (the director of photography) accurately displays the feeling of being suspended in space through the use of shaky camera and moving long shorts. Similarly, the atmosphere of tension in Houston is created by short, fast moving shots of people and computer screens and the extreme close ups of central characters including those played by Gary Sinise and Ed Harris. The decision to present two different styles of filming to demonstrate the two different environments is a clever move and one that is to be congratulated, Howard has produce a fine looking film by employing these contrasting techniques.

As mentioned earlier, the actors of this film have been well casted and give good portrayals of the characters, but the film lacks the excellent acting that we would expect from some of the actors. Tom Hanks gives what I would honestly say a reserved performance and is not given the opportunity to shine as he does in some of his other films. He does however play a good role as Jim Lovell and the audience is invited to empathise with his desires, despite the fact that it sometimes felt like he was just reading a script. Kevin Bacon as always presents himself as a slightly edgy character and has a youthfulness which provides an extra dose of tension inside the spacecraft during times of failure and realization which does make scenes all the more traumatic, in a good way. His character however, doesn't seem to carry any realism and his connection to the story feels rushed... Plus he tells a lot of bad jokes.

It would be safe to say that if there was a “standout” performance in this film it would be Ed Harris as Gene Kranz. He brings a certainty element of calm to this character whilst still being able to express a sense of stress and serious concern. He is indeed a talented actor to is indeed give the chance to show at least some of his skills in the film. Gary Sinise and Bill Paxton also act well in the film but I was however unimpressed with Kathleen Quinlan throughout the movie. To me she just seemed week and almost an unnecessary character.

I think that this film will indeed be remembered. It's no Space Odyssey and I doubt it'll ever be a classic but it is certainly a good film that was enjoyable to watch. Ron Howard is not a superstar director but he has created an accurate re-enactment of a pivotal time in American space travel history and whilst there are elements of this I don't like, I think he has done well.

*** (3/5)

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