Apollo 11 (2019)

Documentary by: Todd Douglas
Pandemic Movie Index (out of 5):

I know, I know - another movie on the Apollo mission. 

Moon landing movies, just like superhero films, serial killer series and anti-vaxxers, seem to be multiplying at an alarming pace these days. 

And yet, this 2019 documentary by Todd Douglas, is a breath of fresh air in the crowded space of space exploration movies. 

For starters, it only uses actual, remastered footage of the Apollo 11 mission — from the popular frenzy surrounding the liftoff all the way to the splash-down in the Pacific Ocean, and everything in-between — as well as actual sounds, conversations and interviews from the era, to recreate the impossible mission, one small step at a time. 

WARNING: watching archival footage from the 60s miraculously brought back to life from our granular past in splendid, full-colour HD is both astonishing and unsettling. My teenage son was flabbergasted, and pointed defiantly at the screen: “That can't be real footage! Why does it look so good?”

Then of course, there’s the outrageous mission itself, explained in minimalist detail, with very simple graphics and subtitles to underline its key moments, all of it highlighted with subtle electronic music to add just the right amount of tension when needed. 

The result is so stunning — and dramatic — that even if you damn well know how it’s all going to end (if you believe they went there in the first place, that is), you just can’t help but hold your breath, shake your head in disbelief and beam with admiration at what was accomplished on that fateful night of July 1969. 

And that’s perhaps the film’s greatest triumph: it provides a crystal-clear window into America’s past and a vivid snapshot of its brilliance, its promise and potential.

Sure, you may not be fully sold on the idea of going to the Moon in the first place, or on the value of any mission accomplished under the Nixon administration for that matter. 

But if nothing else, this film is a vibrant tribute to the impossible. Conversely, it’s also a stark reminder that rich idiots flying off to the confines of space to satiate some pathetic childhood fantasy should be both embarrassed and ridiculed for even pretending to belong in the same orbit as these pioneers.

But ultimately, this movie is extraordinary because of the unexpected nostalgia it generates. This was, after all, the first event that truly connected the planet in a pre-Internet world. The daring mission gave us all incredible hope for a better tomorrow. But sadly, as each frame of this movie unfolds before your very eyes, you’ll come to the inevitable conclusion that you are in fact witnessing, in no uncertain terms, and in lavish colour and detail, probably the very last time America was truly great.