To many of us, the first moon landing was some inconspicuous event that occurred long ago. It was something only seen in brief footage or movie re-enactments. This is why In the Shadow of the Moon is what could be called the first true documentary of the Apollo missions. It features remastered footage, visuals that had never been released, and commentaries from NASA's surviving crew members.
Nothing quite like this has ever been done before. The footage is split between the astronauts themselves in the present and footage or imagery of what they are talking about in the past. There are as many self-deprecating moments as there are heroic ones. The engaging stories are all pieced together in the most logical way possible, telling us mankind's most excellent adventure.
The documentary includes several glimpses into life and politics during the '60s. While the world was changing and a war raged on, the astronauts - most of whom were originally fighter pilots - continued to work in the bubble that is NASA. They felt guilty for not being out there with their brothers. They also dealt with the loss of fellow crew members. All the while, viewers feel the intensity of each situation through the astronauts' eyes.
Although he supported the movie, the reclusive Neil Armstrong's absence from the film does not take away from it. His friends tell several stories about him, enough to leave the viewers feeling as though they got to know him in a way.
However, the film wasn't meant to focus on the first man to walk on the moon. It was about the human race's collective achievement in technology, and then, the singular, awe inspiring emotions that each of the astronauts experienced as people.
Although the documentary is treated with a blend of reverence and humor, the lunar missions were a gamble with real lives and not for one moment does the viewer forget it. For those of us who weren't there to witness the Apollo 11 event in 1969, we can finally experience what 700 million people lived to talk about. For a brief time, the Earth was united in both wonder and worry as they watched the first men to visit another world.
As everyone walked out of the theatre, they were reminded of how small and fragile the Earth is. They thought of how insignificant most of their problems really are in the grand scheme of things.
It is the humbling spiritual insight that will make this documentary a universal and timeless one.
In the Shadow of the Moon will be released in theatres on September 7, 2007.
In the Shadow of the Moon