Plot – NASA must devise a strategy to return Apollo 13 to Earth safely after the spacecraft undergoes massive internal damage putting the lives of the three astronauts on board in jeopardy.
Director – Ron Howard
Released – September 1995
The problem movies have when they are based on true events is keeping the level of tension and drama high enough that the audience will stay invested despite knowing the ending, Apollo 13, is not only successful at telling the story of everyone involved but also perfects the formula enough to create an entertaining and tension-filled sci-fi drama that hooks the audience from start to finish.
As you would expect, the first part of Apollo 13 is given over to introducing the main characters in a somewhat slow and methodical style, this, however, doesn’t harm the film, but rather helps it in the long run, with the comfortable pace providing plenty of time to give development to all the major players and helps to give the audience a connection to them before the mission to the mood begins and the speed of the plot increases.
On his day, Howard can be one of the best directors working today, with Apollo 13 exemplifying this. The suspense sequences alone work out fantastically and the lack of unnecessary material works well to streamline the film, while the massive amount of attention to detail gives it a level of realism that although may put off viewers looking for a more exciting space romp, I found to be expertly handled and means the special effects of the time still look stellar even today.
Hanks as Jim Lovell is his usual excellent self and deserves huge praise for adding a touch of humanity to a role that may otherwise feel robotic or sometimes self-centred. But due to his abilities he doesn’t. It can be hard for a famous face to become a character to the point where the viewer no longer sees the actor, however, Hanks embodies Lovell completely and emphasize with the danger he faces and the pain he feels for not achieving his dream.
When it comes to the performances, it’s not just Hanks that deserves a mention, Howard seemingly brought out the best in every single actor in the film, from Sinise to Ed Harris, everyone does a fantastic job and everyone seems to fit their character perfectly, especially that of Kevin Bacon, who was more than convincing as the playboy of the group, parachuted onto the team at the last minute and living with the guilt that he may have caused the disaster.
As mentioned before, the special effects still look perfect even in high resolution. This might be down to the fact that they are used sparingly and anything that could have been done with practical effects, usually was. The shots of the surface of the moon especially still look great even by today’s standards.
The Verdict: Apollo 13 remains a beautifully shot and directed film that knows exactly when to be thrilling, when to be comic and when to be dramatic, carried throughout by a splendid group of performances from everyone involved.