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Movie Review: Apollo 13

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Nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture, Apollo 13 is one of the best movies of its decade. Despite prior knowledge of the historical outcome, it's guaranteed to keep viewers steeped in suspense. Director Ron Howard creates yet another fantastic picture, solidifying his transformation from Mayberry's favorite son on Andy Griffith to one of the most accomplished director/producers in all of Hollywood.

Standout performances by Gary Sinise and Tom Hanks (on the heels of their Oscar-caliber portrayals from Forrest Gump) make Apollo 13 especially enticing to the movie connoisseur. Based on the true story of the Apollo 13 mission, the film stirs emotions of all types – hope, fear, and patriotism among them. In the end, it's one of those rare movies where the characters are able to intimately connect with the audience. In short, Apollo 13 provides a true glimpse into the lives of those who defined history.

Tom Hanks plays the role of real life astronaut Jim Lovell, member of the three man crew of Apollo 13, the 1970 lunar landing mission. Accompanied by fellow crewmates Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), Lovell rockets into space in pursuit of his dream of walking on the moon. Unable to make the flight, fellow astronaut Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) reluctantly remains on the ground.

Meanwhile, Americans show little interest in this latest lunar mission despite the fact that barely a year has passed since Neil Armstrong's famous words. Apollo 13 is perceived as "routine" and the flight gets little press coverage until Lovell utters some famous words of his own, "Houston, we have a problem."

When things go horribly wrong on Apollo 13, the mission changes from one of moon landing to astronaut survival. Lovell, Haise, and Swigert feverishly work to uncover the problem. Meanwhile, in Houston, flight director Gene Kranz (Ed Harris), bumped crew member Ken Mattingly, and the legions of NASA ground control work around the clock to maintain contact and bring the astronauts home safely. As the minutes pass, the entire world holds its breath in anticipation of the outcome.

Following on the coattails of Tom Hanks' back-to-back Academy Awards for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 hit the movie theaters amidst widespread anticipation. The monumental expectations of moviegoers were not without merit as the film's multiple Academy Award nominations will attest. But what makes Apollo 13 such a strong and emotion-driven epic is its connection with the historical record. The events that unfold happened for real, and at the time, no one knew what the final outcome would be. Unlike today, traveling to space was not routine (or at least not as overlooked as it is now). The men who flew the Apollo 13 mission were true heroes in every sense of the word.

And although they failed to reach the moon, the astronauts of Apollo 13 are immortalized in history in ways they never would have been had their flight gone off without a hitch. Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, and their colleagues do justice to this classic story of man's triumph over adversity. Compelling, suspenseful, and filled with drama, Apollo 13 is an unforgettable film – and a definite "must see" movie for Americans.

Britt's Rating: 8.5/10

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