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In the Shadow of the Moon, produced by the director of Apollo 13, interviews the astronauts involved with the seven Apollo missions about the 1969 moon landing and how it changed the world. There’s a lot of archive footage, a decent bit of which is from NASA, and we see the astronauts floating in space as we hear about their worries, what they thought about on the way up to the moon or they’re way back down, and so on. Yet I found myself bored, waiting desperately for the movie to come to a close.

Surprisingly, for a movie about space, I couldn’t find any arresting images in the movie. All we see is archive footage or interview subjects talking to someone off-camera, and all we hear is their voices. Hearing what the astronauts themselves have to say is interesting, but only to the degree it’s interesting to hear a repeated story from your grandfather, but the details changed a bit in the name of variety. It’s a formulaic documentary for being about such an important event.

In the Shadow of the Moon won for best documentary at the Sundance Film Festival, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it went on to win at the Oscars. That’s a real shame: It would be business as usual if the Academy decided to award a boring “talking heads” space documentary instead of a challenging, thought-provoking movie like Zoo, a documentary that discusses the controversial topic of bestiality. The Academy (and Sundance, for that matter) like to play it safe, and that’s what movies like In the Shadow of the Moon are made for since they’re much easier to get distributed.

If you’re really into the story of the space race and landing on the moon, you may find this enjoyable, hearing from the people who were there. However, if you’re like me, and you’re only moderately interested, check out For All Mankind, which is made only with NASA footage and is one of the few movies I rank as “great” based solely on its pretty pictures. In addition, if you’ve seen or read The Right Stuff, you won’t learn anything new in In the Shadow of the Moon. But if you’re majoring in aeronautic space engineering or you’ve read or own books relating to the moon and space exploration, you should find something to enjoy. Everyone else, if you’re at the movie theater and wondering what to check out, see Eastern Promises instead.


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