Apollo 11

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Apollo 11

Watching an American crew landing on the moon fifty years ago stirred a complex mix of emotions in those of us who were alive and watching on our relatively new TV sets. We earthlings watched in deep curiosity as three men undertook a mission that riveted our world back then in 1969.

That perfect white ball of a moon had been a mystery for all the centuries we earthlings had loved its glow and suddenly we were watching three modern astronauts shuffle through moon sand. The fact that three capable men were chosen to fly to the moon on the wings of the new technology of the 50s is as absorbing now as it was then. As you watch, imagine what’s going on in the minds of Commander Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins and the crowd of experts bent over computers on the ground.

What Apollo 11 gives us is the whole picture in graphic detail. We follow the three from countdown to their final landing, to the planting of the flag, to their return. The most astonishing thing is that the return seems even more of a miracle than the initial flight. Their capsule takes off from the moon and must meet and couple mechanically to the other part they had left behind in space. At eighty-two miles in the air, the parts of their separated ship must recouple for the return to earth. Hundreds of assembled parts controlled so carefully by the men in the space headquarters all work exactly as designed.

The human side shows us the hundreds of men in suits and ties bent over their machines as they went over every detail of the flight. Everything seemed impossible and everything went perfectly. The complexity of why and how that worked is astonishing even today. Nothing in the construction, the design or the testing went wrong. During a flight of 240,000 miles, the complex rocket did exactly what it was built to do.

Those of us who watched them do this fifty years ago thought of it as step one in the exploration of space. Who would have thought fifty years would pass without further major spatial accomplishment? Who imagined their success would stand as the major realization of John Kennedy’s proposal to go to the moon? He never lived to see his hope accomplished.

The complexity of the process and the excitement of the victory are delivered to us in beautiful detail and color, thanks to modern techniques used to spruce up the quality of the old photography. It’s so well done that we realize that going to the moon was a fantasy that became a dream and then a reality in the hands of the hundreds of people who worked on it along with the three men who risked their lives. Together, they flew to the moon 31,000 miles from earth at 11,000 miles per second and not one thing went wrong.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Apollo 11
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 1:33
Rating : G
Date : June 30,2019

They Shall Not Grow Old

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

They Shall Not Grow Old

They Shall Not Grow Old is a movie unlike any other ever made. Filmmaker Peter Jackson’s gift to us is his restoration of a film made during World War I. The original was faded, broken, and jerky. Jackson’s brilliance here lies in his determination to use the original film adding only color and music to bring it into this century. He adds no actors, no modern characters, and invites to stay for his on-camera comments after the film ends. I hope you stay.

From the one hundred hours of original film, Jackson chose to use just that of the British role to commemorate the “war to end all wars.” Because there are no modern injections, the audience watches young men from age fourteen up as they lie about age in order to join the army. In a big difference from today, the enlistees are looking forward to serving with their peers and we watch them blend as they get to know each other in their shared purpose.

Each has brought a backpack with one shirt, one pair of socks, a razor and a toothbrush for the duration. As we watch the physical training that toughens the new soldiers and teaches them how to use their guns, one says, “a man’s best friend is his rifle,” while wondering whether he would ever be able to shoot a man. When they are ordered to board ships for their unknown destination we know reality is about to hit them.

As they arrive the soldiers face the dead, bloody bodies of their peers lying in the trenches they had dug. And then comes the stench of the death of soldiers and horses, the lice, the rats and then the cloud of approaching poison gas. As they capture German soldiers, the British realize they are just boys, like themselves. They like them. And finally, the noise of battle turns into dead silence.

Dragged into holes and trenches with no one giving orders, a whole generation of two countries died, including one million British boys. As the war ended, those who lived returned to civilians who had no comprehension of what they had suffered. What hurts so is that more than a hundred years after this film was made, war is still the final solution to unsolvable disagreements among nations.

Peter Jackson uses his after-film screen time to explain how they created superb history from the broken old film. The filming is immediate and grueling because it brings war alive in a way we have never before seen. There are no actors here. Every man in this film was real.

When Jackson returns to walk the fields where the war unfolded a century ago, the trenches and holes and hills are covered with healthy green grass where one million men died. After this superb film, we are left with one question: why? War follows the inability of men to solve problems. Modern weaponry orders us to learn that lesson.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : They Shall Not Grow Old
Word Count : 499
Running Time: 1:39
Rating : R
Date : 24 February 2019