I’ve just gotten back from the Apollo 11 movie, which I saw in IMAX. The film is a documentary that is all about Apollo 11 and steps you through in a very linear view the progress of the Apollo 11 mission. The story is told without narration or interviews, and features many segments that are shown in real time.
Some of the things that I think are so incredible about this film are that it shows the people behind the mission. There are a number of shots taking in the Launch Control Center showing the rows and rows of contractors supervising the launch in uniforms with early IBM, Boeing, RocketDyne, and Lockheed Martin logos that give an almost perfectly dated feel to the film. This feel serves to make the film a memorable experience, especially for someone born after the US Space program had really wound down its groundbreaking operations.
I have three scenes that I think are my favorite, the first is the launch of the Saturn V rocket which is shown as a long continuous shot. The rocket is shown accelerating through max-Q and the shock wave is clearly seen attaching later on during the ascent.
The second scene is a fairly short moment where Gene Kranz polls his team for the go/no go for powered descent. Kranz is shown on the left of the massive IMAX screen and as he polls each position the person appears on the right. You can truly see the determination of the room as well as the human aspect of these surprisingly young engineers committing to the first lunar landing.
Perhaps my favorite scene of all is the actual descent and landing. The events are shown in real time as a single continuous shot looking down at the surface of the moon from the LEM. Despite knowing the outcome of the mission and even knowing already about the computer alarms, I found this scene very tense and it generated an appropriate feel of suspense. The only information on the screen beyond the images themselves are a countdown clock of the powered flight available based on fuel left.
Seriously, go see the movie.