Apollo 13 (DVD, 1998, Collector's Edition Widescreen) Reviews
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Apollo 13 (DVD, 1998, Collector's Edition Widescreen)

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Resisting urge to say "Houston, we have a problem"...

Dec 9, 2006 (Updated Apr 11, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great cast, script, directing, music, special effects...

Cons:... ... ... really, not many at all...

The Bottom Line: Apollo 13 is an excellent film that avoids all the potential pitfalls of this kind of movie.

Ever since I was a small child I’ve been fascinated by space and space travel, but somehow I’d managed not to see Apollo 13 until today. Various concerns about how this film about the ill-fated mission would be handled were in the back of my mind, of course – would it be overtly patriotic, would it be desperately melodramatic – but having seen it I’m glad to say that in Ron Howard’s capable hands, none of these came to light. In fact, Apollo 13 turned out to be one of the most moving films I’ve seen in a very long time.

The movie starts with a group of friends – astronauts and their families – watching the history-making moon landing of Apollo 11 with Neil Armstrong et al. One of the astronauts, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) dreams of walking on the moon himself. He and his crew unexpectedly find themselves catapulted into the role of the Apollo 13 crew, intended to land on the moon less than a year after the initial moon landing. Public interest had severely tailed off about this second mission, but Lovell and his team are no less excited about it. After an intensive training regime they are off – but, of course, things don’t go entirely to plan…

Apollo 13 has a bit of everything – the fulfilment of a dream, the realisation that a dream cannot be fulfilled, the crew member who got left behind, the family members trying to cope with their situation, tension among crew-mates, the Flight Controller (Ed Harris) desperately trying to find a way to get the crew back safely despite all obstacles, etc. None of these situations feel contrived however and the film is perfectly paced. Another good thing about it is that the tension, while unrelenting in places, is nicely interspersed with elements of humour, preventing the tension from becoming monotonous. James Horner’s musical score is excellent and the photography / cinematography is quite breathtaking at times.

With a cast like this, you would expect good performances and the stars deliver. Hanks is well cast in the lead role and crew mates Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon are also well up to the job. Ed Harris gives a typically focused performance as Gene Krantz, the Flight Controller, and Gary Sinise is excellent as one of the crew who doesn’t make it on this particular mission. Kathleen Quinlan as Marilyn Lovell (Jim’s wife) is believable in her slightly cynical but loving role. (“Remember, proud, happy, and thrilled” is the advice she gives to a less experienced astrowife when the TV crews are about to descend on them.) In fact, none of the cast members fail to do a good job.

Being based on a true story is often a tricky business, and no doubt there were artistic liberties taken with the storyline here. However authentic it actually is doesn’t really matter a whole lot to me, it was a great movie and seemed to have a lot of news clips taken from the time (though I could be wrong, maybe they were acted). It ties the different events together well and has a powerful emotional impact because it focuses on the people, not the technology (though there is of course plenty of that as well). Rather than running along patriotic lines it focuses on how teamwork is important, and also brought out that it was an event that united (or at least interested) the whole world. I’m not sure if they used a set or the actual location for the ground crew sequences but it sure looked authentic to me (from what I remember of my visit to Cape Canaveral).

It’s a tribute to the special effects crew that the film (made in 1995) doesn’t look the slightest bit dated. This is the sort of subject matter that can so easily become boring, cliché, or melodramatic as a movie, but two thumbs up for Ron Howard, the cast, and all of the crew on making Apollo 13 a very memorable movie.

Other Information

MPAA: Rated PG for language and emotional intensity (very little in the way of bad language in this film)
Runtime: 140 min (this didn’t seem a minute too long)

Won 2 Oscars (Best Film Editing, Best Sound) and was nominated for 7 more.


Blanche, Jim’s mother, is a bit forgetful…

Marilyn Lovell: Blanche, Blanche, these nice young men are going to watch the television with you. This is Neil Armstrong, and this is Buzz... Aldrin.
Neil Armstrong: Hi.
Blanche Lovell: Are you boys in the space program too?

Pragmatism is the order of the day…

Gene Kranz: Let's work the problem people. Let's not make things worse by guessing.


More pragmatism…

Gene Kranz: I don't care about what anything was DESIGNED to do, I care about what it CAN do.



Fred Haise: I know why my numbers were wrong. I only figured it for two people.
Jack Swigert: Maybe I should just hold my breath.


Other Ron Howard film’s I loved:

A Beautiful Mind

See also my Top Ten Dramas list.

Recommend this product? Yes

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