September 29, 2018

THE LANDING Sticks the Landing
Starring Don Hannah, Warren Farina, Cindy Lou Adkins, Page Hannah, Arlene Hughes-Martinez, Jeff McVey, Robert Pine. Directed by David & Mark Dodson. (2017/83 min). 


Review by Fluffy the Fearless😽

In 1973, NASA's last mission to the moon, Apollo 18, veered off-course during re-entry. Pilot Bo Cunningham (Tom Hannah) managed to land the spacecraft in the China desert, saving the crew. However, both of his crewmates mysteriously died during the 36 hour period they were stranded.

Following a rudimentary investigation, Bo was hailed as a hero, at least until other evidence suggested he might have deliberately changed course. 25 years later, some of the interviewees in this film - including former NASA technicians, the dead astronauts' widows and an FBI investigator whose evidence was ignored by Washington - think Bo had a sinister agenda. A few theories are offered, from collusion with the Russians to petty jealously. Bo himself is extensively interviewed as well, and continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Of course, there never was an Apollo 18 (nor is this a sequel to the 2011 found-footage film). The Landing is a mockumentary in the vein of those speculative TV specials that often show up on (what used to be) The History Channel. Like those paranoid fantasies, a lot of questions are raised but never truly answered. But aside from a few wonky bits of photoshopping, the film looks and feels like an authentic investigative documentary. 

Bo knows bags.
The actors are mostly pretty convincing, their dialogue never coming across as rehearsed. As the main subject, Tom Hannah looks suitably uncomfortable while answering probing questions. The only time the spell is ever broken is when Robert Pine shows up as a senator who throws shade on suggestions of a crime. Not that he isn't good, but as the one recognizable member of the cast, we're reminded we're watching fiction.

Elsewhere, The Landing assembles an interesting tale through old photos, interviews and, of course, dramatic re-enactments of the incident. It all culminates in a conclusion that would be considered ridiculous if the film were done conventionally. In fact, several characters adamantly point-out the utter insanity of the theories, providing convincing evidence of their own that such a plot would almost be logistically impossible.

Running only 83 minutes, The Landing, is just long enough to keep our interest from waning. The documentary format was the right choice to present its story and never feels like a gimmick. At times, viewers might even find themselves forgetting this is all in fun.

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