In The Shadow Of The Moon (PG)                 

Directed by David Sington

Starring: Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong (archive footage), Alan Bean, 
Eugene Cernan, Michael Collins, Charlie Duke, 
John F. Kennedy (archive footage), Jim Lovell, Edgar D. Mitchell,
Harrison Schmitt, Dave Scott, John Young
Runtime: 100min

See also my review of Moondust This review first appeared on Sci-Fi London
Old people, they love to go on about the good old days, don’t they?  Whether you want them to or not!  So what on earth was David Sington thinking when he gathered together a bunch of 70-somethings and asked them to reminisce about what they were up to in the ‘60s?  Well, to be fair, this lot have rather more to say than most because they’re the only human beings ever to have ever travelled to another world – the moon!

In The Shadow Of The Moon is a montage of old footage of the Apollo programme mixed with new interviews with the astronauts to create both an overview and an enduring historical record of what they did and what it was like.

It’s a very simple idea and frankly I’m surprised this hasn’t been done before, especially given the current age of all the participants – there were just 24 members of this unique interplanetary club to begin with, and only 18 are still alive.  We have books such as A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin, as full and detailed an account of Apollo as we are ever likely to get, and Andrew Smith’s excellent Moondust does something similar to this film, but as fascinating and insightful as both books are neither can really compete with the emotions raised by In The Shadow Of The Moon’s sheer visual spectacle, especially when coupled with Philip Sheppard’s sweeping score.  This is a glorious, unashamedly celebratory film, exactly as it should be, for even if the political truths behind the Apollo programme are not so noble, the end results unquestionably are.

Of those 18 remaining Apollo astronauts, ten are interviewed here.  I have no idea how much footage director David Sington actually took, but what we see here presents them as ten very warm, very human and often – particularly in Michael Collins’ case – very funny individuals.  There’s not a second of padding in this film, not a moment when you aren’t glued to the screen – and remember, this is a pretty straightforward documentary, without any portentous James Earl Jones voiceover or flashy CGI effects.

We’ve all seen so much of this footage a dozen times before, but to see it again here, placed in its proper context, is as if for the first time all over again.  Those Saturn V rockets are unimaginably huge, but the technology is also paradoxically fragile looking and primitive.  The moon – the actual moon, damn it! - is so beautiful, you can only admire the astronauts’ professional calm when most people (me absolutely included) would have been simply paralysed with wonder.  Hell, 35 years later I still sat through most of this 100 minutes with my mouth simply hanging open in awe and wonder at what they managed to do way back then.  And when my jaw wasn’t hanging slackly around my ankles it was locked in a big stupid grin as though I was eight years old again.

If there’s one minor disappointment in the film it’s that Neil Armstrong isn’t interviewed, but the first man on the moon never gives interviews to anybody, so this is a shame but not particularly surprising.

If it’s at all within your power to do so then go and see In The Shadow Of The Moon. Given its limited cinema release I appreciate that this may be difficult, but trust me, this humble film will leave you bursting with pride and joy at humanity’s greatest achievement, and the next time you look up at the moon it’ll be with a smile on your face.

More details, including UK showings, here

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