For All Mankind (Al Reinert, 1989): USA

Reviewed by Byron Potau. Viewed on FLIX.

Director Al Reinart’s 1989 documentary, For All Mankind, is less about informing on the Apollo missions than it is a love song to the Apollo missions, the astronauts who risked their lives, and the exploration of space.

The film begins with J.F.K.’s famous speech that announced our intent to land a man on the moon.  From there the film takes us from departure from Earth, to travel through space, to landing on the moon, to exploration of the moon, and to return to Earth.  The film is narrated by the astronauts who manned these missions, and is an amalgam of several of the Apollo missions (not just the ones that made it to the moon), which creates a singular experience.

The film is presented in an awe-filled manner, heavily assisted by Brian Eno’s wonderful, dreamlike score that gives the film a longing that would have been difficult to achieve without it.  Everything seems to move with the same weightlessness as astronauts and objects alike perform their ballet in space.  As the film caters those who are beside themselves with mans’ achievement in these missions, it goes without saying that if you are of the school of people who insist the moon landings were a hoax, then this film is definitely not for you.  If you do believe men landed on the moon, then it is very likely you will get swept up in the romanticism of this film; astronauts give accounts of their experiences in such an enchanted manner that even the real mortal dangers of the mission are glossed over in favor of the visual poetry of the universe.  There is an abundant amount of footage, both grainy and pristine, of the astronaut in space and on the moon, exploring its surface to whet our appetite.  While the film creates awe it also gives us sadness that such a mountain has already been climbed.  While we savor this great accomplishment, we are left to wonder what is next.

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