Movie Review: Apollo 18 (2011)

Title: Appollo 18
Director: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Producer: Dimension Films
Starring: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen, Ryan Robbins
Excellence: 3 stars (out of 5)
Summary in a Sentence: A solid entry into the sci-fi/horror genre featuring a classified Apollo mission to the moon as told through decades-old "leaked footage".

This is yet another film that's been dealt with fairly harshly by the critics (25% at Rotten Tomatoes), but which I quite enjoyed. By no means a masterpiece, it was a more than satisfying experience. Many critics didn't like the use of the "Blair Witch Project-style found footage" format but I thought that it was very effective for this particular piece. The plot synopsis from the official webpage states:

Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17th, 1972 was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it's the real reason we've never gone back to the moon. 

It was not an intense, edge-of-your-seat sort of thriller. Perhaps since I don't see movies very often (I watch them about as often as I review them, i.e. once per month) I have not been so inured to bursts of adrenaline and was able to appreciate the more measured and realistic pace. The last ten minutes were appropriately suspenseful, but I thought that the real treasure of this film was the feeling of desolation and being utterly alone and cut-off that was given. I thought that the scene where they come upon the abandoned Soviet moon lander was especially chilling.

The realistic portrayal of a moon mission added to the enjoyment for me. As one who was born too late to live through the space race, but who studied it avidly as a youngster, I thought this aspect was particularly well-done. It wasn't a high-tech adventure and it was very easy to suspend disbelief. I thought that the actors all gave very credible performances. The eerily beautiful moonscape was well-done; the special effects overall made it all seem real -- although I'm really not sure what point a BluRay/HD version of this film serves, given that it is all purposely in 1960s quality.

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