Starring: Eugene Cernan, Alan Bean, Charles Duke
Director: Mark Craig
Running Time: 95 mins
The Last Man On The Moon is an American documentary about the life of Eugene Cernan, the last astronaut to walk on the Moon, and his deeply personal story that led to a forever life-changing achievement.
You know the story of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong, as recounted in countless stories and now a blockbuster hit in the form of First Man, but there’s an equally fascinating and important story about the last man to step foot on the moon, Eugene Cernan, and this documentary does a brilliant job of showing just that, taking what at first seems like a fairly ordinary story and giving it the attention and praise that it fully deserves.
Throughout, the film completely upends your expectations with regards to just what role Cernan played in the space programme. He wasn’t merely an afterthought of those that led to the Apollo 11 mission during the 60s, but an immensely integral part of the entire operation, just as involved as Neil Armstrong and the like, and that makes this an absolutely fascinating watch, as it continues to surprise you about just how incredible this man’s life was.
Starting off by focusing on Cernan’s early life, as well as a bit of focus on his present situation, the movie may at first seem to be telling the story of a simply ordinary man. However, with his military service and eventual role in the space programme, it becomes clear that he is anything but, and as we delve deeper into his fascinating life story, I became more and more riveted by the extent to which Cernan was part of a story that we think we know all about.
In that, if you liked Damien Chazelle’s excellent First Man, you’ll find this an equally fascinating watch, running mostly parallel to the story of Neil Armstrong, and very often intersecting with some of the major events depicted in that movie, all the while filling in some riveting gaps about things you’ll sadly never hear about anywhere else.
With all that said, and as fascinating a life story as this man’s is, I have to say that the documentary itself isn’t a watertight one, with a slightly messy narrative structure as it tries to tell the story. Flipping back and forth a little too much between three different time periods; the present, the years of the Apollo programme, and the years before the programme, it can get a little difficult to know just where you are in the timeline, something that unfortunately proves frustrating on a regular basis through the film’s first two-thirds.
The final third, however, is a brilliant surprise, as once we see Cernan finally reach the Moon on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, we stop following a simple narrative of his life, and the film suddenly becomes a very reflective and emotive piece that absolutely floored me.
While I was interested in the first two-thirds, the way that the film concludes is absolutely stunning, as we see Cernan reflect on his role in the space programme, the importance of space exploration, and then above all, a sense of regret and disappointment that the people of the world have not pushed forward with the same fervour for venturing into outer space as in the early years.
It’s a beautifully-made point, and one that’s again echoed by Chazelle in First Man, and although there are of course valid counter arguments to this, I was utterly moved by Cernan’s thoughts, and even felt thoroughly inspired that people should have more enthusiasm and gusto towards space exploration, because it has all the opportunities that we could ever imagine, and will surely be a helping hand in the long term of the planet.
Overall, I was thoroughly impressed by The Last Man On The Moon. A documentary that tells a fascinating story that undoubtedly deserves to be told, and even though it doesn’t always deliver that story in the most effective manner, it finishes off with a spellbinding and incredibly powerful message – almost a call to arms – pushing for more enthusiasm and more involvement towards space, with Cernan’s brilliant words being the icing on the top of the cake, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.