strange that we rarely get movies that truly celebrate good old American
ingenuity and thrift. Apollo 13 is a square and old-fashioned
tale of true American heroes which reminds us how cynical the world has
become — just because it so obviously loves our country and the good that it
can achieve. It also celebrates a simpler, more innocent time when we were striving
to conquer new frontiers and where thousands of people would move heaven and
Earth to save three men.
Apollo 13 is based on the true story of an ill-fated moon flight in
1970, less than a year after Neil Armstrong became the first astronaut to
walk on the moon. The crew of three pilots, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks),
Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) were tapped to be
the third group of explorers to walk on the moon. The original third
pilot, Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise), was grounded at the last minute when a
NASA doc became worried that he was exposed to the measles.
first, the mission seemed anti-climactic. Even in a new space age,
walking on the moon had become old hat quickly and for the first time the
networks didn't bother to preempt shows like Bewitched and The
Price Is Right.
been-there-done-that attitude quickly faded when a mysterious explosion
disabled the rocket, leaving it up to the crew and the men of mission
control (led by hard-edged Gene Kranz, played to perfection by Ed Harris) to
work against the clock to keep the Apollo 13 from becoming a flying coffin.
The moon walk was scrapped, suddenly the mission changed inexorably to
bringing the astronauts home alive.
Therefore, some of the greatest minds in the world had to scramble to solve
problems that had never existed, with just their
resourcefulness and intuition to guide them. One mistake could lead to
the astronauts being incinerated during reentry or skipping off of the
Earth's atmosphere and tumbling off into space with no power.
Apollo 13 shows a world just starting to get technically proficient.
(A throwaway line about the computer which ran the mission needing to be
housed in a large room is all the funnier because it is so accurate that
just 35 years ago the most biggest, most powerful computer in the world had
far less ability than the personal computer that we now use to surf eBay.)
It also shows the start of the public's voyeuristic fascination with
spectacular tragedy, particularly in a wonderful scene when Marilyn Lovell
(Kathleen Quinlan) has to tell a NASA PR rep to get all of the reporters off
of her front lawn.
Mostly, though, Apollo 13 is a celebration of brave and selfless men
(and women) who would put themselves in harm's way for the good of mankind.
And even though most people know from history what happened to the
astronauts of Apollo 13, the ending is heart-stopping and surprisingly
Apollo 13 came at the tail end of Tom Hanks' incredible winning
streak of movies that included the smash hits A League of Their Own,
Sleepless In Seattle, Toy
Story and the back-to-back Best Actor winning roles in Philadelphia
and Forrest Gump. And though all of those films are very good,
Apollo 13 is the best of the lot. It also was very
worthy of another statuette, though the role of Jim Lovell is a lot less
flashy than the other characters, it is still a skilled, subtle performance.
Other performances are just as fine, with Bacon, Sinise and Paxton shining
as the other astronauts. The real standout is Quinlan, though, who is
amazing as the wife who is trying to put on a brave face for the cameras and
her kids while her world is
crashing down around her.
Apollo 13 is one of the most patriotic films made in the past decade.
It is also a rousing adventure story. With so many movies celebrating
the mundane and trivial in the world, it is nice to watch one that marks the
bravery and pioneer spirit that made the United States great.
CLICK HERE TO SEE OUR
OTHER REVIEW OF APOLLO 13.
PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: April 2, 2005.