Film Review: Apollo 13 – 9/10

‘Houston… we have a problem…’

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In the wake of this article listing the top 10 Tom Hanks movies, I got a lot of feedback in regards to the omission of Apollo 13. To address this, I went back to Ron Howard’s 1995 classic to ascertain whether it should be considered one of Hanks’ best works.

When a spacecraft endures massive external damage, three astronauts and their team of chain-smoking scientists back on Earth, must work together to attempt to land the spacecraft safely, thus saving the astronauts in the process.

I remember when I was a kid still being completely starry eyed at the idea of space travel. I was fascinated and awed by the story of Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon and this mini obsession manifested itself into a life of science fiction fandom, therefore fuelling a lifelong love for all things Star WarsPerhaps because it has been done so many times or maybe because the first Moon landing now feels further away, but it seems that space travel no longer holds the same allure to the younger generation that it used to. And this is a shame. Because watching Apollo 13 again as a (supposed) man, brought all the giddiness I used to feel about space travel roaring back to me.

A quick word for director Ron Howard. As well as having Apollo 13 under his belt, he is also responsible for A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and Frost/Nixon among others. This is a master of the craft who rarely seems to get the credit that he deserves. Although the recent release of the underwhelming Solo: A Star Wars Story has done him no favours…

So… should I have included Apollo 13 in my original list of the top 10 Tom Hanks movies? Well, I would still argue no. Is The ‘Burbs a better movie than Apollo 13?  No. Is The ‘Burbs a better Tom Hanks movie than Apollo 13 though? I would argue that it is. What I mean by that is that if you take out Tom Hanks from The ‘Burbs you are left with something spirited but forgettable. It would be disengenious to describe Apollo 13 as a Tom Hanks vehicle. Sure, he is fantastic in the lead role but so are Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon as his co-pilots. So is Ed Harris at mission control. The inimitable and underrated Gary Sinise is also as reliably excellent as ever. Throw in the assured direction of Ron Howard and a sweeping score from James Horner and it is clear that Apollo 13 cannot be described as just a Tom Hanks movie. What it is though, is a stone cold classic of ’90s cinema that lacks the infectious silliness of something like Armageddon but more than makes up for it with a mastery of the craft of film-making and a prestige that ensures it should go down in the history as one of the best films of the decade.

Gentlemen, it’s been a privilege flying with you…

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