REVIEW: Apollo 11 (2019 – Documentary)

Theatrical Release Poster – NEON / Universal Pictures

The following is a review of Apollo 11 — A documentary directed and edited by Todd Douglas Miller.

Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 is, as you have probably already gathered from the title, a documentary about the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, which ultimately culminated in the spaceflight landing two men on the moon for the very first time in our history. It is arguably mankind’s greatest achievement, and the iconic words from Neil Armstrong are imprinted on the minds of every adult alive. In 2018, one of the year’s very best films, Damien Chazelle’s First Man, studied Armstrong’s private life and the sacrifice that he, his family, and many Americans made to reach the lunar surface. This year, Todd Douglas Miller has made a documentary that isn’t just an outstanding companion piece, but also one of the decade’s finest documentaries.

This is the kind of documentary subject that many might want to tell in a very different way than Todd Douglas Miller has done here. Miller hasn’t gone out and hired a famous actor to narrate the events covered, or to explain concepts that are tough to grasp. Miller never uses talking head interviews, and, for the most part, Miller doesn’t give in to the urge of documenting other noteworthy events of 1969. Instead, Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 is an uninterrupted, straightforward documentary retelling of the mission. There are maybe only one or two instances in the documentary when you hear about what else happened in 1969, but I really like the way that he does this. We see a television set showing the news — and people gathered nearby the television set — where we hear about the development of the Vietnam War and the news about the Chappaquiddick incident. Then, in the next moment, we see a couple of NASA employees in the mission control room talk about how the Chappaquiddick incident almost overshadowed the Apollo 11 mission.

Todd Douglas Miller’s film is a precise documentary that takes you through the entire mission through digitally restored NASA-footage that looks incredible. These crisp new images are compelling and spectacular, and even if they won’t convince the most hardened conspiracy theorists, it should overwhelm and impress anyone who may not know enough about the mission. Though it does rely a lot on images of NASA employees reacting to what happened, I got a great amount of joy out of seeing them fulfilled by the success of the mission. In that way, I think it is an inspiring and moving documentary and a testament to the work done by hundreds or maybe thousands of people who have worked with NASA to achieve goals that resonated with people all over the world.

Todd Douglas Miller’s Apollo 11 is really impressive. It’s a short and sweet but awe-inspiring documentary. I think it is astonishing that Miller and his crew somehow managed to build up tension in a documentary about a mission that everyone knows succeeded. I think a lot of people might be on the edge of their seats during the moon landing and the re-entry. Like last year’s They Shall Not Grow Old, Apollo 11 is one of the best documentaries of the decade, as well as one of the few documentaries that probably ought to be mandatory viewing in schools forever.

9 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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