apollo18Do We Really Know?


Apollo 18
Stars: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen and Ryan Rollins
Director: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Scriptwriters: Brian Miller and Cory Goodman
Music Supervisor: Sarah Webster
Apollo 18 Productions/The Weinstein Company
Rating: PG 13 for unsettling images and violence
Running Length: 110 minutes
It’s the soundtrack that makes this film---or rather, lack of a sound track. The story is of three American astronauts who go to the moon as Apollo 18, only to discover unusual and unsettling things there. The music at the end of the film is the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings,” done as solo piano in variations on the melody.  Remember the words?  It’s about three kings following a star, and no one really knows their names or their adventures to and from Bethlehem, just that they existed.  It is haunting.
This movie is a three man show, with one astronaut, played by Ryan Rollins,  staying to circle the moon, while the other two, Ben (Warren Christie) and Nate (Lloyd Owen) actually landing on the moon as Apollo 18. Their mission is to gather moon rocks and information, instead, they find mysterious impressions in the sand, mysterious electronic interruptions, an empty Russian lander, and evidence of a cosmonaut. Where is this person? What happened? Human footprints don't look like sand impressions. Slowly, Ben and Nate realize that they are not alone on the surface of the Earth’s moon and home is a terribly far place.
The film is done using “lost footage” and so is gray, grainy and unsteady. In “real life,” you see the men in steady cam. They go through routine checks, sleep in close quarters in hammocks, try not to get on each others nerves and speak of home. Tension slowly builds, however, as they try to get an answer from Earth and keep their spirits up.
The film moves slowly at first. Equipment looks like something astronauts would use and special effects are fine. Half way through the movie, it begins to resemble an old “Outer Limits” television show as far as theme (on the moon/another planet and strange things happen outside the ship) or an old 1950’s Martian landing movie where rocks are weapons. The camera is in the actors faces most of the time and they show at first, excitement that changes to puzzlement, annoyance, surprise, concern and fear. There is sparse dialogue, so when in spacesuits, breathing is important, not speaking.
As for the audience? Fear starts to creep in about 1/3 of the way through the film, and increases at the 2/3 mark. I got caught up in the film when I noticed things at the edge of the camera shot. Instead of James Cameron’s approach in “Avatar,” where the action is directly in front of you, Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego goes for the edge of the camera. Scary. Of the three actors, Ben (Warren Christie) has the perpetual smiling face, while Nate (Lloyd Owen) is the somber one. Direct opposites and opposite approaches to the situation while the third guy blissfully sails overhead.  “Apollo 18,” an “explanation” of the conspiracy about an unannounced space flight to the moon, is as good as any. Do we really know?
Copyright 2011 Marie Asner
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The 2011 11th Annual Kansas International Film Festival (KIFF) will be held from Sept 23, 2011-October 6, 2011 in Overland Park, Kansas, a western suburb of the greater Kansas City area. The Festival will be held at the Glenwood Arts Theater, 95th and Metcalf, Overland Park. Filmmakers will be present for many of the films including the documentary of the forced famine in the Ukraine called “Genocide Revealed.” There are over 45 films in the Festival such as “Beatles Stories,“ “Holly Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians,“ “Halfway” and a preview screening of the Tilda Swinton/John C. Reilly film, “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” about a boy who commits murder in his school. Ticket prices and more information are available at the web site www.KansasFilm.com or by phone 1-913-642-4404.

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