City Paper is not for tourists
David Sington’s In the Shadow of the Moon would feel right at home at the National Air and Space Museum: Like the institution’s aging installations and artifacts, Sington’s documentary is the kind of thing you’ve seen over and over again but that never ceases to inspire a sense of awe. Composed almost entirely of talking-head interviews with surviving members of Project Apollo—including Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, but not Neil Armstrong—and historic footage from both pre-launch testing as well as the actual missions, the film follows Apollo from its birth in the early ’60s to its final mission in ’72. It’s easy material to work with—if anything, Sington’s sole problem is that he has too much footage. With so many former astronauts offering their perspectives on the program’s various missions, comments regarding one mission are often heard over footage from a completely different one, which can get confusing. The film also takes an oddly aggressive turn during the credits, when several of the interviewees bitterly denounce conspiracy theorists who claim that the lunar landings never occurred. Such minor nuisances have little negative effect, however, since the story pretty much tells itself. Even by the standards of today’s technology, the concept of putting a few men into a rocket-propelled tin can, blasting them into outer space, and expecting them to survive not only a lunar landing but a return trip to Earth remains a true marvel. And, if we can put a man on the moon, it should come as no surprise that Sington can assemble a compelling documentary out of overly familiar parts.