Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon
Director: Ron Howard
Running Time: 140 mins
Apollo 13 is an American film about the true story of three astronauts who, during a mission to land on the Moon, suffered a devastating blow to their spacecraft, leaving them and the people back on Earth clinging onto hope that they can make it home alive.
This is how space should always be on the big screen. An all-time classic for good reason, Apollo 13 is a spectacularly entertaining, inspiring and gripping adaptation of a scarcely believable true story. Powered by magnetic lead performances from both the astronauts up in the sky and those down on the ground, it’s a soaring tale that marks the downfall of the golden age of space exploration with a tear in its eye.
If you’ve always been enamoured by the allure of space, and a certain sadness as to the end of the space race of the 1960s and ‘70s, then Apollo 13 is the film for you. Not only is it a fantastically detailed account of the infamous Apollo 13 mission, complete with well-developed characters and bucketloads of emotion throughout, but it’s a visual masterpiece that might still be unsurpassed as a majestic vision of space exploration.
While more modern films like Interstellar, The Martian and more can count on improved visual effects to push further out into the cosmos, Apollo 13 is a truly remarkable technical feat for the time that it was released. The visual effects hold up 100% to this day, and the film is able to present a grand voyage into the unknown without ever going overboard with visual tricks that the technology of its day can’t handle.
With that comes a powerfully immersive tale of three astronauts boldly going as far as man can go, and a film that’s so visually convincing that it’s impossible not to be sucked in by its story. Because, while Apollo 13 certainly fits the bill as a historical account of the mission, it’s also a gripping and emotionally devastating tale, brought to life by a spectacular ensemble cast.
Up in the spacecraft are Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon, a competent and dedicated trio of astronauts, but who have the slightest tension bubbling between them. Back down on Earth, meanwhile, the likes of Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Kathleen Quinlan, Tracy Reiner and more, who all serve to ground the emotion of what might at first seem like a far-flung tale.
As the inevitable unfolds and chaos erupts within the spacecraft, the cleverly-plotted emotional background to the three astronauts comes into effect, as you hang on for dear life with them while their dire mission goes from bad to worse, thousands and thousands of miles away from their home planet.
Director Ron Howard blends massively entertaining blockbuster action with real dramatic stakes and deeply emotional moments throughout, with the story coming to a head in a breathless finale that ultimately left me with a tear in my eye.
But those tears don’t only come after the sadness and terror of the mission that the astronauts have been through, but also as the film recognises the detrimental effect of incidents like Apollo 13 on the ever-more unpopular space programme, the gradual loss of which has been one of the great tragedies of the last half-century.
So, with all that in mind, it’s difficult to look past Apollo 13 as anything other than a spectacular film. Visually incredible, emotionally gripping and full of thrilling action and sentimental drama, not to mention its amazing ensemble cast, this film is an absolute masterpiece, and a deserved modern classic – which is why I’m giving it an 8.4 overall.