_**Cinematic account of the ill-fated Apollo mission**_ In April, 1970, the Apollo 13 mission to the moon is aborted after an explosion causes internal damage. The three astronauts and Mission Control must now focus on merely surviving and getting back alive, if possible. Directed by Ron Howard, “Apollo 13” (1995) is a solid account of the real-life events and obviously influenced “The Martian” twenty years later, which is even better, albeit not based on historical events. I suppose this zeroes-in on the weakness of this movie: If you’re familiar with the account you know how the story ends, which diminishes suspense. Nevertheless, I found it interesting to observe the living conditions and challenges of real-life astronauts, as well as the resolve and ingenuity of the people at Mission Control to work with what’s available and to figure out how to get the astronauts home. The film runs 2 hours, 20 minutes. CAST: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan. GRADE: B/B-
This does take a while to get going, but once space-bound, it proves to be quite a compelling tale of three astronauts who find themselves stranded in their spacecraft after an oxygen tank blows up. Ron Howard now presents us with a potently claustrophobic couple of hours and the men - Lovell (Tom Hanks); Haise (Bill Paxton) and Swigert (Kevin Bacon) must work with their ground control colleagues led by Mattingly (Gary Sinese) and Kranz (an excellent Ed Harris) to try to calculate some way of getting them back to safety before their remaining oxygen and fuel runs out. Meantime, we also get a sense of the mortality of these travellers from their partners left on Earth - not least from an on-form Kathleen Quinlan (Marilyn Lovell). The screenplay is based on the book by Lovell, and reeks of authenticity. There is little need to embellish it with special effects; the sets adequately convey the dangers and sense of confinement as the clock ticks down. The dialogue is strong - pithy and lively but also well based in science. That enables Hanks to turn in one of his more convincing, less quirky performances which gels well with his acting co-stars. History tells us the ending, so it is not that the film has jeopardy - it hasn't, really. What is does have is an accumulated sense of peril and it demonstrates well how adaptable and innovative the human brain can be when facing almost certain death. The production is top drawer - understated but effective, and the score from James Horner is one of his lesser known, but none the less effective for that. A really well photographed example of a well directed, strong story with an equally strong cast that is well worth a watch.
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