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By Jamie Tipps | September 9, 2007

So many movies have been made about astronauts, it’s hard to imagine that another one would be necessary, much less relevant. However, “In the Shadow of the Moon” is a surprisingly fresh take on familiar material.

The documentary recounts the story of the twelve American men who landed on the moon, beginning with the early days of their training and ending after the completion of their missions. Using remastered footage combined with interviews of the surviving astronauts, director David Sington creates a moving and vibrant picture of one of man’s greatest triumphs.

The success of this movie is twofold. First, Sington treats the topic with a combination of wonder and awe, emotions that are shared by anyone who ever dreamed as a child of being an astronaut or taking flight. He joyfully presents the historical material, and the enthusiasm is catching. When a clear goal is set out and achieved, catastrophic dangers faced and conquered, it’s hard not to see the magic in the science.

Second, lest he fall into over-sentimentality, the director balances his reverence with the interviews of the astronauts, a technique which effectively anchors the grand abstractness of the subject in the wonderfully human details. Intelligent and articulate, each man has his individual quirks and unique personality, and as they tell their story, we can see how they play off of each other, and how this must have affected the crew’s dynamic. However, all of the astronauts share one thing in common—they are remarkably humble about their achievement, their anecdotes exhibiting a sense of humor and humanity that is disarming.

Though these events are forty years in the past, the space landings still have the ability to intrigue us, mostly because they inspire hope—and in the current day and age, hope is not a bad thing to hang on to.

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