Below is a review by Grey Wolf of the 2011-release film Apollo 18. All statements and impressions are purely the opinion of the author.
Very clever use of the documentary style, with retro effects, whether they actually used cine-cameras and 1970s technology, or they used digital editing techniques to replicate this. The cine-type filming of the social events gave it an immediate feel, and the to-camera monologues allowed the film to do the "As you know, Bill" part that can be so clunky in a narrative if done badly.
The build-up of supsense was excellent, and the Moon landing and discovery of the Russian lander and its dead cosmonaut done with appropriate dramatic effect. The imagery was powerful, and the revelation of the cosmonaut's skeletised body shocking. The return to the American lander, and the power fluctuations, the mysterious tipping over of the rover, the moving of the moonrock, and the almost-death of one of the astronauts built up tension nicely. The discovery of moonrock moving about his body gave us the chill factor, and the sense of siege.
But then it all went wrong. The film began to feel over-long, and at 1 hour and 20 minutes that is a bad thing. The plot began to drag, and it was quite possible for the viewer to wander off for a few minutes, come back and feel they hadn't missed anything. Everything became dull, and here the decision only to use faux-filmed footage backfired as the sense of drama and horror was very difficult to portray. The lack of background music hadn't been noticeable up to this point, but now the long silences began to grate on the nerves.
And the sub-horror revelation of the Moon critters was strangely uninteresting. Things perked up a bit at the end when the lander tried to take off and rejoin the orbiter, but there was to be no dramatic finale. The fact that the lander and orbiter were called Freedom and Liberty may well have been a deliberate irony on the part of the producers, or if not is certainly one in retrospect. The Deputy Secretary of Defense dooming them all to remain in space and die because of risk of contagion was perhaps a logical action, but it doomed the film as well.
Without any uplifting ending, and with simply the state condemning its brave servants to a horrific death, the overall effect was to make the American government seem disgusting and self-absorbed, too self-important to consider the lives and families of those who served it and made the ultimate sacrifice.
As a final thought, the lack of sacrifice was note-worthy. The film could have ended in an All-American heroic fashion had the astronauts decided themselves that for the good of humanity they would not come home. But there was no Spurgeon moment, no Captain Oates, just a desperate and all too-human wish to get back to Earth that was to be denied by the cold-hearted practicalities of the authorities.
RATING: 6 out of 10