In the Shadow of the Moon (2007)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 20-Aug-2008

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Additional Footage-Behind the Shadow
Featurette-Making Of-Scoring the Shadow (10.38)
Interviews-Crew-Director David Sington (8.54)
Theatrical Trailer-(2.19)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 95:40 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By David Sington
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Buzz Aldrin
Neil Armstrong
Alan Bean
Eugene Cernan
Michael Collins
Charles Duke
John F. Kennedy
Jim Lovell
Edgar D. Mitchell
Harrison Schmitt
Dave Scott
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI ? Music Philip Sheppard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio Varies
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    It is perhaps a surprise that in 2008, when CGI can take us to any fantasy realm or distant corner of the universe, my most heart-stopping experience this year came in watching, again, that tiny capsule of Apollo 11 wend its way to the surface of the moon and eject its two passengers into history. Images of lunar landings have been repeated over the years but this documentary In The Shadow of the Moon is the first I can remember that brings a freshness and real emotion, not just to the famous landing, but to the whole moon programme.

    In the Shadow of the Moon is a comprehensively researched and presented full length documentary that charts chronologically the NASA moon program. It is "presented" by moon tragic Ron Howard whose own film Apollo 13 was documentary-like in its spare, direct retelling of the moon mission that almost ended in disaster. "Presented" probably means "supported by" as this British made documentary has no commentary - it relies entirely on the occasional informative title and interviews with Apollo alumni to tell the story.

    It is an inspired decision. Rather than the movie becoming a dry litany of facts and figures this is a film that tells us what it felt like to be the first in space, the first to orbit the moon and the second to walk on the surface. The effect is compelling. These men remain sharp, intelligent and possessed of remarkable stories.

    The gathering is not complete. First man of the moon, Neil Armstrong, chose not to take part - a decision consistent with his desire for privacy. Truth be told he may have been embarrassed had he taken part by the level of adulation extended to him by his fellow astronauts. Others of the 24 men who have travelled to the moon do not appear but the ten that do are full of enthusiasm for their subject, which translates to a rich viewing experience.

    Director David Sington is content to let the men drive the stories with their tales of challenge and triumph. This is no accident. In the interview which accompanies this film he describes the documentary process as an interesting way to work. Unlike traditional film, a documentarian doesn't really know what the film is going to be about or how it will end until all the interviews have been shot. In its narration-less style In the Shadow of the Moon is perhaps closer to the films of Errol Morris in the way that minute details and seeming irrelevancies are allowed to bubble to the surface and create meaning and emotion. The film does concentrate on the positive side of the Apollo astronauts. Although we see the failures, like the fire that killed Gus Grissom and crew and Apollo 13 are featured the controversies like the Apollo 15 "postage stamp incident" or Buzz Aldrin's UFO comments are excluded. What, for me, emerges most strongly from this film is the courage of the individuals who allowed themselves to be strapped to rockets and flung into the unknown. Sometimes this dedication cost relationships, sometimes lives were lost. Although the astronauts were aware of the politics behind the quest none of them expresses the idea that they were personally motivated by beating the "Ruskies". When Mike Collins was alone on the dark side of the moon it may be true, as he says, that it didn't worry him to be "the loneliest man in history". But it is not hard to admire the courage and resolve of a man in such an extraordinary situation.

    This year (this month even) marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of NASA. There are more detailed ways to celebrate as other, longer, documentaries exist. But In the Shadow of the Moon is one of the best ways to mark the occasion.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    In the Shadow of the Moon combines interview footage in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with original historical footage presented at the original 1.33:1 ratio. The widescreen portions are 16x9 enhanced.

    The look of the interview footage is crisp and clear with accurate colours and flesh tones. It is without any technical defects.

    The historical footage has been remastered from the original NASA films and the effect is remarkable. Colours are bright and the image is crisp without being over-processed. The filmmakers have chosen to improve the image quality without removing all the artefacts that place it in the past. So grain, some scratches and the odd blob are still there to be seen. Don't be put off. The images are amazing. Due to the rarity of the material I have rated the video quality slightly higher than I would for any other film with footage that suffers from age and damage.

    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   In the Shadow of the Moon carries two Dolby Digital soundtracks running at 448 Kb/s (5.1) and 224 Kb/s (2.0).

    The differences are not so much in the expanse of the surround track as this film sits pretty much around the centre channel. However, the quality of the 5.1 track is to be found in the beauty of the score by Philip Sheppard. The score is exquisitely orchestrated with a variety of sounds both delicate and brash and the 5.1 track really conveys the quality of both.

    However, there is nothing wrong with either track from a technical viewpoint. All the speaking parts can be heard clearly. There are no audio sync problems.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

This DVD contains an additional disc of extras. The extra DVD is single layered only, however, there is only 76 minutes of material so there are no technical problems like compression issues with these extras.

Behind the Shadow

    This is not a Behind the Scenes feature but rather a collection of deleted scenes, 18 in all, of varying length. There is no commentary but most were probably deleted to keep the documentary better on track. All, however, are interesting. There are descriptions of the earlier Gemini Space Program, Sputnik and a bit more about walking and driving on the moon. Most interesting is when Michael Collins points out the awful truth that the astronauts were mainly test pilots and not at all suited to the public relations aspect of NASA. He could point out to the listening world exactly the velocity, trajectory and more of his craft but not how he felt about his trip. The program took its toll on marriages and nerves leaving some astronauts changed men.

Australian Exclusive Interview with David Sington

    The director explains the background to the project. He sounds like a kid in a toyshop when he says that he was let loose in the NASA archives and found an "unexploited film resource". This short interview is more about the technical processes of putting the film together including the 6 months of cutting involved in creating the story. I wonder how many other amazing stories ended up on the cutting room floor.

Scoring Apollo

    Composer Phillip Sheppard is interviewed in detail regarding his scoring of the film. He is a composer of the future and his decisions are well supported and inspired. Take, for example, when the Apollo 11 launches. Instead of using a bombastic martial tune Sheppard begins with a marimba and gradually develops the sound. This is not counterpoint - it is a new way of seeing the event. Sheppard has worked with some interesting people in the past including UNKLE and David Bowie and composed the Olympic torch handover (which included Jimmy Page doing Whole Lotta Love).

Theatrical Trailer

    One of those trailers that makes you want to watch the film again.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this film has a commentary from the director, the editor and the archive producer as well as a couple of bits by Ron Howard. As it also includes the extra materials on our release (with the exception of the interview) I would ordinarily have to say that the Region 1 is the better product. However, as those features are all on the same DVD some may prefer the Region 4 version that has a separate DVD of the extras.

Summary

    In the Shadow of the Moon is one of the most stirring documentaries I have seen for some time and deserves a space on your shelves.

    The video and audio transfer is pretty good throughout and some of the historical footage looks freshly minted.

    The extras are interesting and contribute to the quality of the whole package.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
When we left earth - penguin
re: When We Left Earth - Roger T. Ward (Some say he's afraid of the Dutch, and that he's stumped by clouds. All we know, this is his bio.)