“Apollo 13” – Docu-drama Directed by Ron Howard

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The film I chose was Apollo 13, a docu-drama directed by Ron Howard and produced by Imagine Entertainment. The film was released in 1995 and stared Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Bill Paxton, and Ed Harris. The screenplay by William Broyles and Al Reinert is the dramatized story of the 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission which was aborted during flight. The film is a suspenseful space drama based on true events about the mission three Americans took in 1970. Apollo 13 was a highly acclaimed film and as a member of the audience, I learned a bit of American history in regards to our space program, I felt a connection to the characters and the film itself was exciting and I highly recommend it. In the paragraphs below, I’ll discuss the film and why I thought it was good enough to recommend to an audience and how the film can reach a variety of audience members.

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““Apollo 13” – Docu-drama Directed by Ron Howard”

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On April 11, 1970, Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise left on the 3rd attempted moon landing by the U.S. space program. They were unable to land on the moon after an oxygen tank exploded two days into their trip. Their service module was cripple and therefore the command module was also broken. The crew had to limit their use of power, heat, and water. They had to make a contraption to remove carbon dioxide from the air. The crew was able to safely return to Earth on April 17, 1970, 6 days after they launched. The film takes place on the same date as the actual event. The majority of the film is in space and in chronological order. There are two scenarios that are playing out during the film; that of the crew in space who are in fear of their life and needing to get home; and that of the team at the space center in Houston who are responsible for the lives of the crew. The film has historical significance as it was a booming time in technology. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had already walked on the moon so the impact of Apollo 13 to the moon was not as impressive to the general public as it had been during the space race. Without the competition, the odyssey was less viewed by the public. Once the ship was broken, the public had a bigger interest in watching the outcome. The characters in the film were upper-middle class, highly educated, 40 somethings.

The film follows the factual storyline quite closely. The original pilot Steve Mattingly is told he can’t fly with the crew after he was exposed to the measles. The crew enters space with a backup pilot and for a couple of days all was well until the backup pilot stirs the oxygen tanks which is a standard procedure, but it causes the tank to explode because of a fault in the equipment. The crew is forced to shut down all of their equipment that is using energy so that they have enough power to return to Earth. At the space station, Steve Mattingly figures out how to save power and bring them back safely. The other members of the space program used their combined knowledge and teamwork to make filters to clean the air. Others motivate the guys to stay strong until they get home. In the film, the hero is Steve Mattingly. Because of him, they are able to get home safe.

The characters have the same names as the real crew members of Apollo 13, the dates are the same, and the story took place in United States. There’s an inside look into the personal life of Jim Lovell. In real life, Lovell married his highschool sweetheart. Audience members can relate to a family man. The audience is more excited to see him return home to his family. The bond between the men at first was professional, but as they worked through the challenges together, they began to connect more personally the way soldiers do. For example, the scene where Haise is getting sick and Lovell helps him and comforts him by chatting with him about life and assures him he’ll be home to meet his unborn baby. The same type of teamwork is shown at the space station on Earth, Gene Kranz, played by Ed Harris, was directing the support group that was trying to figure out how to get the group back safely. His character was really important in the film because he remained cool under pressure and stress, but was direct and quick thinking. He forces the teams to work together and come up with solutions to get the crew home. Without Mattingly, the odds of getting the crew back alive was not good. He spent hours in the simulator figuring out the formula that would get the crew home.

This film received great reviews and received 13 awards from accredited film institutions. Based on these awards, I am not the only one with the opinion that this film was incredible. Many space films are fictional screenplays. As you watch Apollo 13, what sets it apart from other space films is that it’s based on a true story, which makes the film more personal and why I think everyone should see it. The only review that disagrees with my assessment is a small article in the Los Angeles Times in which Barbra Zuanich-Friedman, a friend of Jack Swigert mentions that “He would have loved the film. He would have hated his character.” He was not the playboy that his character suggests. (Zuanich-Friedman)

This type of space film is different from other films in this genre, such as Gravity with Sandra Bullock, a fiction film which follows the story from one person’s point of view. Another similar type of film is The Martian, a fictional futuristic story of a man who loses his crew and ship and has to survive on Mars until he’s rescued. These films are comparable in the sense that they are lost in outer space and are surviving until they can get home. In Apollo 13, you are following a storyline of the family, the staff at NASA and the crew on the ship.

Although Ron Howard did a great job in his research and his portrayal of the event and the characters, some audience members may disagree with the accuracy of the actual event. For example, Mattingly himself wrote an article about the differences in actual events based on his recollection. (Howell)

This is a great film with adventure, excitement, and talented actors. I felt emotional during this film as I connected to what the characters were going through as well as what their families were going through at home and the men working at NASA trying to get them back. This movie put into perspective what was happening before technology was as complete as it is today. These men were taking such a great risk to develop our knowledge and I feel humbled by their efforts. I will never go to space and somehow I could relate to what these men were feeling as far as stress and unpredictability. The men were brave and I love watching movies based on true events where true heroes succeed. I feel encouraged and empowered to see tough times through to the end. I felt really connected to the story and that’s what watching a movie is all about.  

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"Apollo 13" - Docu-drama Directed By Ron Howard. (2021, Apr 06). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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