Apollo 18

For some odd reason, the imdb lists the names of the three main actors in this film, but doesn't list character names -- they're down as uncredited. Which is wrong; they're just credited at the end of the film instead of the beginning, but apparently that confused someone over there. Maybe they'll fix it later. In any case, let me satisfy your curiosity, if you're anxious to know who plays who. Well, who plays who of the three main characters, since I'm afraid I didn't manage to scribble down the name of whoever provided the voice for Tommy, their main contact down at Mission Control, for instance, and the internet is strangely silent on providing that information. I mean, I'm not even finding rumors and innuendo.

Anyway, Ryan Robbins plays John Grey, the command module pilot. That's the guy who has to stay up in orbit and doesn't get to walk on the moon even though he's so close, which has to hurt. The actor is going to be in the TV movie remake of The Philadelphia Experiment that's currently filming, but like his fellow victims -- I mean astronauts -- you probably won't recognize him unless you watch a lot of TV. Those are about the only credits any of them have, so I was clueless.

Lloyd Owen plays Nathan Walker, the mission commander. Lloyd also played Henry Jones, Senior, in the Adventures of Young Indiana Jones series, which I think went straight to video, but it's kind of cool to be able to say that you played the same character that Sean Connery did. And Warren Christie plays Ben Anderson, who is the lunar module pilot and a happily married father of one. John has a fiancee, but I only know that because one of the eleven people in the credits was listed as "John's fiancee". She doesn't have any lines.

So these three astronauts are being sent on the Apollo 18 mission, which was cancelled for lack of funds before being promptly reactivated again, this time as a super-secret Department of Defense mission. The cover story is that they want to put some sort of high-tech radar installation on the moon's south pole, in order to help track missile launches from the Soviet Union. However, since this film (not to mention its accompanying website, www.lunartruth.com) is a conspiracy theorist's dream come true, there's much more to it than that. I think they hit every major U.S.-based conspiracy theory of the late twentieth century on that website. The stuff about a moon installation being the only possible way to protect us from stray asteroids is all wrong, though, I'm pretty sure. If a large enough asteroid comes our way, we're just doomed.

Sorry. The movie was sort of a downer, which may be affecting my review. More precisely, the movie was also claustrophobic, at times oppressively spooky, fascinating to watch, and terribly realistic. This is why one of the frequently asked questions on imdb is "Is this movie real?" (Here's a hint: the film was written by a guy named Brian Miller.) But the film quality is convincingly twitchy -- sometimes there was even something stuck down at the bottom of the screen, or the picture would roll.

I can't really tell you much more than that, since one of the best parts of the movie was discovering what was going on right alongside our hapless trio. They do a good job of pulling you into the situation, and I cringed a lot. There are some of the usual horror movie things with a twist -- blithely wandering off alone to investigate the weirdness lurking in the darkness, for example, though in this case it's the darkness at the bottom of a really big crater -- but otherwise it's a very good blend of horror and sci-fi, and a very enjoyable watch. It's a little reminiscent of Super 8, and not just because of the film the astronauts use, which I think is mostly 8 mm. There's that same sense of being immersed in a time period, and of course the same lack of recognizable faces that helps make everything more effective and real, even though it isn't.

Four out of five. Four and three-quarters out of five if you like conspiracy theories, though I suppose the really hardcore theorists don't get out to the theaters much. Just like no one gets out to the moon much anymore; which is really kind of a shame. I hear it's lovely there this time of year.

Nate realizes that he is not quite alone.


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