It’s rare for documentaries to get a wide release in the UK. On the rare occasion that they do get released it’s usually for one day or similar limited runs. So when I found out that my local IMAX was going to be showing the Apollo 11 documentary, I jumped at the chance to watch it. I originally thought that I would not be able to watch the film in IMAX (mainly because whilst it’s rare for a documentary to get a wide release, it’s rarer for a documentary to get a wide release in IMAX). The film itself is a stunning documentary, especially to see the scale of the footage NASA gave the filmmakers.
Now it’s hard to talk about this film like I would any other. The structure of the film covers the Apollo 11 mission from launch until the astronauts landed back on Earth, with all of the footage of the film comprising archive footage recorded by NASA of the mission. There are no newly recorded interviews and the only new material for the film are diagrams showing the trajectory of the mission and the movement of the rockets. The scale of the footage that we see in the film is incredible, with the restoration of the footage for IMAX (mainly the 70mm footage) looking incredible. Seeing the scale of Saturn V and the beautiful images of the moon and space is incredible and, to me, knowing that the footage is real gives the film more power than any re-enactment could.
What further helps the power of the film is the sound mixing and the music. The way the sound in the footage has been formatted for IMAX, particularly for the launch of Saturn V, is incredible, giving the film a raw power, with the vibrations generated giving the feel of being as close as possible to the rocket. The music meanwhile creates a great deal of tension in the film, aided by on-screen graphics and the footage the music is linked to. I can’t really explain it but there’s this power the music has which makes it brilliant to listen to. For the tension, the fact that I knew how the mission ended and knew what was going to happen didn’t stop the footage from being intense, such as seeing how close some of the elements came to running out of fuel. I also found a lot of power in the actions of the astronauts and the people on ground, seeing how professional they are, along with showing the sense of comradery that they all have with each other to make sure that the mission is a success.
Overall, Apollo 11 is a stunning documentary. The way the footage from 1969 has been utilised puts us as close as possible to the moon landing and creates a powerful, tense experience, aided by there being no interviews in the film. Knowing that what we are seeing is how it happened (albeit edited) with no reflections or misremembered events makes this as pure a documentary as can be seen, with the way the footage was formatted for IMAX giving the film an extra degree of power.
My Rating: 5/5