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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My 40 Favorite Films of the 90's - 16 - Apollo 13 (1995)

Apollo 13 (1995; Universal Pictures)
Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Bill Broyles, Jr. and Al Reinert (adapted screenplay); Jim Lovell and Jeff Kluger (novel)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris

The Apollo missions were the culmination of centuries of science and mathematics evolving over generations, ending with a few chosen men walking on the dusty terrain of Earth’s Moon.  It is a story that has been told time and time again.  However, the flight of Apollo 11 was not the last of the NASA’s lunar excursions.  The Apollo 13 mission was intended to send a few astronauts to the Moon for further study but this objective was cut short due to a sudden and shocking tragedy.

The story of how Jim Lovell (Hanks), Fred Haise (Paxton) and Jack Swigert (Bacon) survive a crippling explosion aboard their ill-fated vessel is a gripping and captivating tale of strength and ingenuity.  A fuel leak leads to an explosion that rocks the ship and severely damages several essential systems, most dangerously were the climate control unit and the oxygen and air filtration system.  With certain death looming just around the corner, these three men fight to stay alive and escape the cold and deadly throws of space.  To make it back, the heroic explorers require the help of a dedicated team of technicians in Houston and one astronaut named Ken Mattingly (Sinise) who, after testing positive for measles, was forced to stay grounded.  The lengths that the headstrong NASA workers go to keep their men alive are the stuff of legend, and make for some fascinating dramatic tension.

Through the 90’s, Ron Howard had proven himself to be one of the most talented and consistent directors in Hollywood.  The former child actor and Happy Days star shocked everyone by becoming a super-talent behind the camera, taking on challenging projects that use tension and drama to keep their audiences frozen to their screens.  His work on Apollo 13 is astounding, and though the film did not sweep the Oscars (being up against the titan that was Braveheart), it deserved the awards it was nominated for.  In my honest opinion, Apollo 13 ranks alongside some of the most idiotic Oscar snubs in history, close to the likes of Citizen Kane losing Best Picture to How Green Was My Valley in 1942.

Apollo 13 is a blend of beautiful cinematography, superb performances from everyone involved, an engaging and true story and a very intelligent screenplay.  There is not a boring or pointless scene in this movie.  Everything counts, from the time the astronauts spend on Earth preparing for their missions, to the scenes that cut back to their families.  There is no filler.  The film paints a vivid picture of how everyone connected to this shocking event felt upon hearing the news.  Tom Hanks, Ed Harris and Gary Sinise (a personal favorite performer of mine) all give some of the best performances of their excellent careers in this enthralling and tense drama.

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