A routine trip to the moon turns into anything but a routine voyage.
In April of 1970, a nation was asked to pray for three brave astronauts struggling to return to earth in a wounded spacecraft. Even though I was a child at the time, I remember, as will most others who witnessed those perilous events, calling on God in their behalf. Perhaps that accounts for my feelings of a personal connection to this conquest over catastrophe story.
At the time I didn't understand the complexities of the situation. Now, thanks to the remarkable efforts of director Ron Howard, the tale of the ill-fated Apollo 13 space mission comes to life in amazingly accurate detail.
Originally intending to land on the lunar surface, Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) are forced to scrap their flight plan when an explosion destroys part of their vessel. Losing fuel and oxygen rapidly, the once lofty objectives of scientific exploration are abandoned in the all-consuming, humble occupation of just keeping the crew alive.
Back on the ground, Mission Control scrambles to find innovative solutions to an ever-increasing list of problems standing in the way of bringing the boys home. Insufficient power, carbon dioxide poisoning, and probable heat shield damage are just a few of the obstacles pushing the limits of their ingenuity, stamina and faith.
Needless to say, the life and death struggle of the astronauts, the helplessness of the watching family members, and the desperation of determined NASA employees make this drama too intense for young viewers. Other concerns for parents will be the inclusion of many mild to moderate profanities, cigar and alcohol use (one character drinks to drown his disappointment), implied sexual relationships outside of marriage, and a brief but innuendo-loaded explanation of how the lunar and command modules dock in space.
Older audiences however, will find lots to appreciate about this well-crafted film. Although it sometimes takes artistic license with interactions between personalities, it pays strict attention to the technicalities and timelines, even using the actual transcripts to generate the script's dialogue. Proving fact is more compelling than fiction; Apollo 13 offers a great look at space history, sure to whet your family's appetite for this subject. Remember, we may have been raised in the days when man walked on the moon - but our kids missed it.