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Apollo 11

See the tense reality behind America’s ­successful moon landing 

© CNN Films Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage and more than 11,000 hours of audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes viewers straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission.
      President John F. Kennedy promised that America would send a man to the moon by the end of the 1960s. To reach that goal, breaching the heavens and exploring the universe beyond, America made a massive investment: $23 billion. NASA was born, and its astronauts became the stars of American pop culture. 
     In 1969, that dream was close. Apollo 11 astronauts would touch the moon — or die trying. 
      Apollo 11 is a riveting documentary using historic footage to recreate the eight-day mission that launched a new era of exploration. Director Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13) cleverly cuts together news reports with archival footage to capture the breathless wonder with which America watched Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins explore the cosmos.
     Though we all know how the journey ended, Apollo 11 shows parts of the story that keep us in tense suspense. On the mechanical side, a leak in the hydrogen line compromised the mission just a few scant hours before takeoff. On the human side, Buzz Aldrin’s heart rate fell dramatically during extreme duress.
      We also see what space travel was like in footage shot by Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins. The trio had, essentially, been strapped to a tin can atop thousands of gallons of rocket fuel by engineers hoping for the best. A loose valve, one ill-timed separation or any myriad of tiny mistakes could have killed them. 
      We also get to know the personalities of the astronauts and of the ground crew who ensured they landed and returned safely. Despite the tension, hard work and camaraderie developed over years helped them reach their common goal.
     Apollo 11 is an excellent snapshot of this moment in history. As for the bigger picture, it fails to contextualize the moon landing in the larger sweep of American history as Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins were able to unite a nation in upheaval.
     See Apollo 11, and its images of the earth and moon in space will make you invulnerable to Flat Earth conspiracy theories.
Good Documentary • G • 93 mins. 
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