Apollo 11 review – stunning return to an incredible journey

Featuring previously unseen footage, this electrifying documentary marks 50 years since the first moon landing

Sometimes gush is the only appropriate response and the amazingness never gets any less amazing. The 50-year anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon launch has now been marked by this fascinating documentary, which presents newly discovered colour footage of the build-up with the buzzcut wholesomeness of the astronauts’ goodnaturedly trustful faces in closeup, the electrifying launch, the touchdown and the return to Earth.

Somehow, it doesn’t look like something that happened 50 years ago – but rather an extraordinarily detailed futurist fantasy of what might happen in the years to come, if we could only evolve to some higher degree of verve and hope. And, to my amateur eye, the design of the Apollo rockets is incomparably superior to the Nasa spacecraft that came afterwards or to anything in any sci-fi movie or TV show ever.

All eyes on the sky … Apollo 11
All eyes on the sky … Apollo 11 Photograph: PR undefined

Then there are the gripping shots of what appears to be the spectators’ outdoor gallery in Florida, people in fantastic 60s clothes and sunglasses, many with some high-powered binoculars and cameras – some professional media, some apparently hobbyist civilians. There don’t seem to be many people there. Did they win a lottery to be at that exclusive venue?

I thrilled all over again to the images of the men on the moon, from Neil Armstrong’s stirring statement on taking his historic step and to Buzz Aldrin’s heart-stopping joke about what would happen if he absent-mindedly pulled the capsule door shut behind him on his way down the ladder. And what is maybe just as remarkable is not the journey to the moon but the journey back to Earth, and the views of the planet from space, the historically new perspective. It never gets old. Are we ever going to go back?


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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