In the Shadow of the Moon (review)

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This bittersweet reminiscence about the Apollo program of the 1960s — you know, JFK’s dream of putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth — is chock full of funny, warm, human memories of the moonshot astronauts (guess who took a moment for a pee while he was descending from the lunar lander?) and some never-before-seen footage of the decade-long endeavor: most haunting are the new looks at the doomed Apollo 1 crew and the burnt remains of the capsule that became their fiery deathtrap, though the stills and film of the first Earthrise, as the Apollo 8 team witnessed from their first-ever perch behind the moon, is awesomely beautiful, too. The first film from David Sington, a producer for PBS’s Nova, won the Audience Award for Documentary (World Cinema) at Sundance 2007, but still, for all its out-of-the-world subject matter, it feels strangely TV-small… and I say this as a devout space geek who never gets enough of hearing about this stuff. Listening to these now-old men speak of the greatest adventures of their lives is thrilling — they’re still a compelling and charismatic bunch — but their age reminds us how long it’s been since we humans have acted with such audacious, optimistic boldness. And the movie shares that timid sense of undaring safety, content to look back at what’s done without ever exploring the lost promise of the past.

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