Apollo 13 (1995) / Drama-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG for language
Running Time: 140 min.

Cast: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Kathleen Quinlan, Xander Berkeley (cameo), Roger Corman (cameo), Bryce Dallas Howard (cameo)
Director: Ron Howard
Screenplay: William Broyles Jr., Al Reinert (based on the book "Lost Moon", by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger)
Review published June 30, 2001

In 1970, the world was already becoming bored by the missions into space, seeming routine after the pinnacle of achievement the year before with the first manned landing on the moon.  The mission of Apollo 13 was a continuation of the moon missions, but the world took little notice other than the obligatory, fast receding news reports.  That is, until complications began to plague this latest mission, and soon the three-man operation would not only have to be aborted on its way to the moon, it seemed unlikely that they would be able to survive.  For days, the nation watched, and prayed, and hoped for a miracle.

The mission of the Apollo 13 is well-documented, and if you consider that it is based on astronaut Jim Lovell's book, I don't think it spoils anything to know that all of the men made it home safely.  The film documents the situation well in its own cinematic fashion, creating a perfect sense of tense drama and intrigue, even if we know everything turns out fine in the end.  It's a remarkable story, and almost surreal, with coincidences that stretch the realm of believability.  Plans were hatched on the spot, and if any of them failed, it meant certain disaster for the men, and perhaps a serious setback for the space exploration agenda.

Ron Howard (Splash, Grand Theft Auto) does a masterful job keeping it all together, with especially strong performances by Tom Hanks (Sleepless in Seattle, A League of Their Own), Ed Harris (The Firm, Running Mates) and Bill Paxton (True Lies, Tombstone) adding to the credibility of the production.  The look and feel of the film is very authentic, with great, and highly technical, recreations of actual vehicles, and superb special effects.  The real-life events of the Apollo 13 are fascinating in and of themselves, and the film doesn't fail to meet the interest in the slightest.

Apollo 13 ranks easily among the best films of 1995, earning a Best Picture Academy Award nod, among many others for the acting and production.  It's recommended highly for anyone interested in the events, or just people who enjoy tense drama based on actual events.  Competent, unfaltering entertainment for the ages.

-- A 1974 version of the same story was made for TV called Houston, We've Got Problem.

Qwipster's rating:

2001 Vince Leo