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Apollo 13 - ITV4

Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Tom Hanks sit in the lunar capsule

A meticulous recreation of true-story space drama. 4/5 stars

Director Ron Howard's meticulous recreation of the ill-fated 1970 lunar mission is high on both suspense and special effects. Even though the ending is a foregone conclusion, the film is still a real nail-biter in the way it explores the nature of human courage, which had to kick in after a catastrophic mechanical failure and explosion on the craft's outward journey to the Moon.

Focusing on the increasingly desperate improvisations required to keep the three astronauts alive, if anything, the scenes on the ground are even more exciting than those set inside their crippled capsule.

As the stricken trio, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon are all astronomically good, but even better are the contributions Gary Sinise and Ed Harris make on the ground as the key men at Mission Control. Complete with a white waistcoat, Harris’ forthright style peaks with his classic lines: 'We've never lost an American in space. We're certainly not going to lose one on my watch!'

And, all the time the film is bulging with nostalgia for a time when scientists still used slide rules and the only way to reach the Final Frontier was in a tiny capsule called Apollo perched atop a giant rocket called Saturn V. Outstanding on all levels.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.