As editor and director of this excellent documentary, David Fairhead is in complete control of his subject. In compiling archive footage, animations, and talking-head interviews, he forms a compelling narrative explanation of the moon mission in a manner which makes both familiar details and new revelations equally enlightening and enjoyable. Add to this a terrific original score, influenced by modern space-cinema and the classics, and Mission Control is an all-round worthwhile experience.
Only a few features don’t work (current mission controller bookends, awkward team reunion shots) in a documentary about the coming together of a group of men (more on that later) where no part could be weaker than the rest without jeopardising the mission. Interviews with those in the room whilst Apollo 11 landed, whilst Apollo 13 was stranded, are fascinating and well conducted, giving genuine insight into how they worked as individuals and as a team.
What a shame, then, that the “Unsung Heroes” of Mission Control see the light in the same year after the unmissable brilliance of Hidden Figures. Whilst the efforts and achievements of those WASP-y men is undeniably worth celebrating, to do so so soon after a high-calibre film which covers similar ground but with a racial and gender equality angle seems unfortunate. They are, however, different films and in different categories. As documentaries about lunar exploration go, Mission Control is right up there with the best of them.
At a time in modern history when the moon has never felt so close and yet so far away, Mission Control is yet another timely reminder of what it took to get there and what it meant. A worthwhile and easy to watch documentary, learn this story then go out and look at the moon in a new light.
DIRECTOR: David Fairhead
SYNOPSIS: At the heart of the Apollo program was the special band of brothers in Mission Control. The film covers the first journeys to the moon by Apollo 8 and Apollo 11, and the huge effort required to save the crew of Apollo 13.