Apollo 11 review – a front-row seat for the moon landing

Composed entirely of archive footage, this documentary invests the historic mission with a tense immediacy

Given that we all know how the mission turned out, this documentary about the Apollo 11 lunar landing shouldn’t be as nervily tense as it is. But the archive-only approach – unlike the 2007 picture In the Shadow of the Moon, there are no contemporary interviews, just material recorded at the time – lends the film an immersive sense of urgency. Like the rows of crew-cut, clench-jawed scientists staring fixedly at banks of grainy screens 50 years before, we almost forget to breathe as Armstrong manoeuvres a rickety little capsule that looks like it’s held together with duct tape and faith.

There is no shortage of factual films that explore this moment. But a combination of superb research – behind-the-scenes footage is augmented by newsreel shots of crowds camped out in the car park of a JC Penney department store, craning to catch a glimpse of history – and first-rate editing makes this lift off. A celebration of human endeavour, and of a rare moment of global unity.

Apollo 11 trailer.


Wendy Ide

The GuardianTramp

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