Tom Hanks Project – Apollo 13 Review

7 May

apollo-13-tom-hanks-poster11 years after Ron Howard helped launch Tom Hank’s career in “Splash,” they leave the shores of 1980’s NYC and go to the moon via Houston in 1970. There’s no denying “Apollo 13” is an exceptionally well made film. It looks beautiful, especially in the Blu-Ray version we watched, and has numerous great performances. I was surprised to see that Hanks didn’t get an Academy award nomination, while Ed Harris and Kathleen Quinlan did in their roles as the head guy at NASA and Hank’s wife*. The movie itself won best sound and editing Oscars and also scored nominations for everything from best picture to screenplay, effects, and set direction. Hard to argue with any of those, even if we didn’t think Quinlan and Hanks had much chemistry. As strong as the movie may be, we didn’t connect with it, at least on this viewing. We got caught up in the story, but it felt more clinical and methodical than other Hanks movies we’d seen several times before. And it doesn’t score all that well on our metrics.

*WHAT?! Quinlan got a nod??? Pshshsh. She was fine, but the romance was NOT there at all. We’ll get to that.

apollocastApollo 13 is the story of the mission to the moon, two missions after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did it in Apollo 11. The crew is thrilled for the opportunity, even going ahead with the mission with the less experienced astronaut played by Kevin Bacon taking Gary (Lt. Dan) Sinise’s lead position, since Sinise may have the measles. So off they go to the moon, which makes Hanks’ wife incredibly nervous. It’s her defining characteristic. She’s the wife who’s nervous that her husband is in space*. Hanks plays the lead astronaut, Jim Lovell, and since it’s Hanks, he’s quick, witty and charming. So off they go and the public is pretty bored by the mission. They don’t even air the live in space TV show Lovell and company make. Been there, done that.

*It’s understandable, especially for the time, but they just don’t build in the relationship at all before shooting Hanks off into space, so while I try to put myself in her shoes, it’s tough to do.

Houston we have a problem - Apollo 13

A malfunction in the oxygen tank makes it so the mission is doomed. They can no longer land on the moon and now will be lucky to make it back to Earth alive. Suddenly the whole world is captivated*. They have to slingshot around the moon and figure out how to re-direct the oxygen and use up every bit of energy they have to make it home alive. It will be NASA’s “finest hour.” Spoiler: they make it. I had to tell Caitlin that Kevin Bacon dies so she’d be captivated enough to give it her full attention. He doesn’t die, but this movie isn’t quite as thrilling when you know they all make it alive**.

*Kind of gross that people only get interested in the rubber-necking aspect of, ooh, do I get to see a disaster?! Way to go, humans.

**I’d seen the movie before but only once and not in a long while. He fooled me.

*Contest for a free Apollo 13 DVD* A lot of objects float in space. 10 of these 13 items floated in the movie. Comment with the three you think didn’t float/weren’t in the movie. Whoever gets the most wins. You have until Thursday, May 8 at noon.


Pick 3: Pen, urine, tang, water, flashlight, notebook,  duct tape, socks, notebook, hot dog, tissue, shoe, watch

Laugh Out Loud Zack: 12 Caitlin: 6Not a lot of laughs here. The occasional chuckle for things like jokes about how Kevin Bacon has the clap, but it’s no comedy. It’s a very dramatic film, and I do think that they pull off the drama well. The story here is really down to how the men in the film all interact, how everyone back at NASA gives it their all to rescue the guys and get them home safely. Not a lotta chuckles.

Comedy Zack: 5 Caitlin: 4 Normally, I’d give a film an N/A when I feel like it’s not meant to be a comedy. But I do think that Ron Howard was trying to find the humor in various situations within this film. I just found many of the jokes to fall flat. This category didn’t exist for the blog back when we were watching “Bachelor Party,” but I’d rate this film’s comedic value above it, way below “Big.” Yeah, again it’s not a comedy, but you can effectively work jokes into it and they tried, but they were kinda dad jokes and nerdy stuff. 

Cry Zack: 0 Caitlin: 0 SPOILER: Everyone makes it home safely! Hurray! No need for tears here. I did say to Zack at the end, “Remember how ‘Captain Philips’ ends sort of similarly to this, with Hanks floating in the ocean in a vessel, but like, with 100% different consequences?” Now THERE is a cryer. I actually felt some emotion when we first hear Tom’s voice finally breaks through after the three minute mark of radio silence gets longer and longer. I wasn’t close to crying, but I felt the feels.

Eye cover Zack: 0 Caitlin: 2 I may not have remembered everything about this film, but I most certainly remembered that one of the astronauts pukes in outer space, so it floats all around. No. thank. you. Vomit in space was kinda cool. How often do you get to see that? I wasn’t gonna close my eyes.


Romantic interest Zack: 5 Caitlin: 3 This is one of the worst romances we have ever seen Hanks be a part of, and I think it’s emphasized by the fact that we’re supposed to believe he and Quinlan are REALLY in love. In that established-over-years-and-share-experiences kind of way. But it’s just not at all visible. They have a couple sweet exchanges, but she almost comes across as his mother more than his wife. I prefer Hanks and Sally Field in “Punchline.” She’s very motherly. You can tell they have a shared life and love, but yeah, it just doesn’t work for me. They don’t have much chemistry. She just worries about him. 

Hanks Zack: 9.0 Caitlin: 9.4 As a film about our relationships with the people we work with, the bonds that form with real passionate work, “Apollo 13” allows Hanks to showcase friendship in a way that we hadn’t really seen yet (except for maybe “Turner & Hooch”). He knocks it out of the park, showing stoicism under pressure, a cool head yet lots of emotion, and he delivers the line “Houston, we have a problem” like nobody else could. It’s an iconic role for him, and he really makes this film. Watching him hug the guy who plays a very ill Haies (Bill Paxton), the warmth just emanates. This is one of the roles that makes me stick by my wish that Hanks were my long-lost uncle. Hanks carries this one. It’s a great, nuanced performance and I can’t believe he didn’t get an Oscar nod for this one. He’s had bigger snubs before, but kinda hard to not give him a nod in a year when Nic Cage won. 

Movie Zack: 8.8 Caitlin: 8.8 This doesn’t hit “Philadelphia” heights for me. It’s a solid movie based on true events, and I do think it captures the drama, stress, and direness of the situation really well. Ultimately, though, you don’t really walk away with a sense of “go do it”-ness like you do with “Forrest Gump.” The saddest part of the story to me is that Jim Lovell never makes it onto the moon — he never even goes back into outer space. The daydream sequence where he’s realizing that he isn’t going to make it to the moon’s surface, and he’s just envisioning himself putting his gloved fingers in the moon dirt and making tracks — it’s devastating. I’m glad he survived, and I’m glad that that seems like it’s ultimately enough for him. But it leaves me wondering, almost on his behalf — what if? As much as we acknowledge it’s a technically excellent film and Hanks is great in it, it just didn’t resonate with us. It’s clever and delivers exactly what you expect it to, but it doesn’t captivate on repeated viewing. We’re happy to have it in our collection and would recommend it if you haven’t seen it, but it’s not a favorite.


One Response to “Tom Hanks Project – Apollo 13 Review”


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - May 14, 2014

    […] Apollo 13 – 1995 Review […]

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