Courtesy of Elevation Pictures

Apollo 11: Quarantine Review – The Original Physical Distancers

A worthy follow-up to the masterful archival doc

3 mins read

Apollo 11: Quarantine
(USA, 23 min.)
Dir. Todd Douglas Miller

It might be the most repurposed line in film criticism since declaring one doc after another relevant for the age of Trump, but Apollo 11: Quarantine is one of the timeliest films yet for the age of COVID-19. This short doc offers a follow-up piece to Todd Douglas Miller’s masterful feature Apollo 11. One could easily play the films in succession without missing a beat. Quarantine is both a coda and a worthy standalone film in its own right.

The film offers some never-before-seen footage of the 21-day quarantine that astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins underwent following their historic trip to the moon. Although the doc was in production before the coronavirus drove the world indoors, Apollo 11: Quarantine is as relevant as a film could be. Like contemporary Earthlings abiding by physical distancing, the astronauts closed themselves off from the world to prevent the potential spread of harmful bacteria or pathogens they may have contracted in the unknown frontier. Similarly, the measure protected prospective life forms the mission may have brought to Earth. As with the precautions being practiced (by most of us) fifty years later, the measures are a selfless sacrifice for the greater good. If two weeks in an apartment are too much, just imagine spending three weeks spent with two people after traversing outer space with them in cramped confines.

This aspect is particularly intriguing. Many films that depict the moon landing don’t explain how Armstrong and company couldn’t immediately celebrate their landmark achievement. They were rescued from the ocean, decontaminated, and shut away—not exactly a heroes’ welcome. But their humility and desire to return to their families only adds to one’s appreciation of their feat.

Miller once again delivers a technically accomplished film and a work of art. Quarantine shares Apollo 11’s masterful restoration of archival material, including some 70mm gems, and its ingenuity in providing every best vantage point to witness a landmark event. No angle is unexamined in these brief twenty minutes. Without interviews or experts, Miller and his team remarkably recreate the event from a wealth of footage. The film inevitably lacks the grandeur of Apollo 11, but that’s only because of the different scales of the events. Going into quarantine isn’t as wild as going to the moon, but it’s nevertheless a rewarding experience. The film shows how sometimes the smallest steps are often the biggest ones.

Apollo 11: Quarantine is now available on VOD.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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