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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

In The Shadow Of The Moon

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Jacqueline Monahan

In The Shadow Of The Moon

Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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From the first shot of a cloud swept moon seen from the Earth, the viewer is filled with the awe of the mysterious, an emotion that must have been shared by our pre-historic brethren.

And so the fascinating Ron Howard-presented documentary In the Shadow of the Moon begins, and sustains the awe throughout its snippets of anecdotes and observations from surviving astronauts of the Apollo program.

Amazing footage taken from the launches, the landings, and the return voyages makes it hard to believe that this took place nearly four decades ago. Between 1968 and 1972 there were nine manned spaceflights to the moon. The recollections of the surviving astronauts from each mission are interspersed with television coverage of the time and never before seen NASA footage.

Apollo astronauts Mike Collins, (11), Eugene Cernan, (10, 17), Edgar Mitchell, (14), Jim Lovell,(8,13), Alan Bean, (12), Dave Scott, (9, 15), Buzz Aldrin, (11), Harrison Schmitt, (17), John Young, (10, 16), Charlie Duke, (16), even the reclusive Neil Armstrong (11) utters a line or two of recollection. Armstrong is the only astronaut seen in archival footage, (JFK, LBJ and Queen Elizabeth, as well). The rest of his peers give recent interviews of unrivaled fascination. Some of these guys actually lived on the moon for days. Some got to drive on it, skip through its surface, and see the Earth as only a handful could, able to be hidden behind a thumb held at eye level.

One of the astronauts muses that there are two moons in his head: the one that everyone thinks of, and the one that he knows intimately because he was there. No one on Earth can beat his vacation story.

One tells the story of his father being born three days after the Wright Brothers and then his being able to walk on the moon’s surface. Little moments like that, which uncover stunning comparisons and observations, come to life when these astronauts recall their time off of this planet.

Describing the moon as hostile, scary, desert-like and beautiful, the men get an almost dreamy look in their eyes, as if they can’t believe where they’ve been

Buzz Aldrin (11) confesses to emptying his bladder before setting foot on the moon’s surface. We see him pause on the last rung of the ship’s ladder, probably thinking he is taken in the momentous occasion, and his words hit home.

The moon is 240,000 miles away and was visited during a turbulent time on Earth, full of civil unrest, the Viet Nam conflict, and tremendous culture change. From that great distance, one of the astronauts remarked how absolutely fragile it looked, how blue and pure and suspended.
We discover that the astronauts were involved in the building of their spacecraft, each section divided like slices of pie to be studied and mastered. The majestic ballet of space flight is captured in slow motion. The interviews involve tight shots of their faces, their eyes seeing far into the past, reliving the sensations and emotions, sometimes startling even themselves.

JFK, in full color, visits NASA, looking vibrant with less than three years to live. His space mandate, to put a man on the moon before the decade ended, was fulfilled and remains one of his greatest legacies. Many of the astronauts still shake their heads in wonder over this accomplishment.

Mike Collins (11) emerges as a wise and eloquent raconteur, full of insight and thoughtfulness. He had to stay aboard Apollo 11 while Aldrin and Armstrong got to walk on the moon. You’ll come away with a new respect for this one. Without fear, just an underlying worry about system function, Collins illustrates the term “grace under pressure”, although he’ll defer to Armstrong in this category if pressed.

A fascinating piece of information is the reading of the text of the prepared speech (for Richard Nixon) that was to be announced in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts experienced a malfunction and could not return to Earth.

Here director David Sington (Equinox, Nova) effortlessly pulls off the impossible. He showcases a time when America was the pride of the world. There’s even footage of the French waving American flags in admiration and one French woman saying that the lunar landing is just what she always thought America could accomplish. There are shots of people from different countries on different continents celebrating in the streets. The U.S.A. was once the toast of the town, and the stark contrast to how we are viewed today is not lost upon the audience.

There is a pride that sends shivers and bittersweet memories through the viewer just by witnessing the actual events and news footage. There is no spin, just straight forward coverage, and the camera illustrates the worldwide emotion, the thrill of accomplishment, and the true acknowledgment that the best and the brightest were chosen for these missions.

Author Tom Wolfe nailed it when he called it The Right Stuff.

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