Fly Me to the Moon – Film Review

In the 1960s, the great ‘Space Race’ took place where the former Soviet Union and the United States raced against each other to land on the moon. At the height of the Vietnam War, the USA faced a shift in public sentiment away from the expensive space program. In 1969, the American’s won the race and landed on the Moon, or did they?

Depending on who you ask, many will tell you the landing is a complete fake and it was filmed on a sound stage. Whilst I wholeheartedly believe that the mission to the moon was a complete success, I will never shy away from a dramatisation and retelling of historical events.

Fly Me to the Moon is exactly that, a comedic drama with a romantic spin that looks back at the events leading up to the launch of Apollo 11, and the broadcast of the landing itself.

Directed by Greg Berlanti, written by Bill Kirstein and Keenan Flynn with a screenplay by Rose Gilroy, Fly Me to the Moon follows Kelly Jones (Scarlet Johansson), an advertising and marketing specialist. She is enlisted by Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson) of the United States Government to improve NASA’s public image. Standing in her way is the technically minded and mission focused Cole Davis (Channing Tatum). After the tragic loss and disaster of the Apollo 1 mission, Davis is more concerned about succeeding without being distracted by what marketing stunt Jones has up her sleeve.

However, there are bigger things at play. With the increase in public interest at the hands of Jones’ marketing campaigns, President Nixon is becoming increasingly nervous about the success of the Apollo 11 mission. Expecting failure and wanting to save face, a ‘back-up’ plan is put into motion to film the moon landing for broadcast to the world.

I have always been fascinated with the Apollo missions and in recent years, there have been some fantastic documentaries produced on the historical event. But never have I seen a film like Fly Me to the Moon. Aside from the conspiracy theory aspect to this film, I had no idea what to expect and can safely say I was pleasantly surprised. The comedy is subtle and balanced well with the seriousness of the mission itself, and although the film does contain quite a slow burn to the penultimate conclusion, it is well worth the wait.

Fly Me to the Moon has a fantastic cast. Channing Tatum is perfect as the technically focused leader of the Apollo 11 mission, Cole Davis. Having seen Tatum in mostly loose and funny comedic roles, it was great to see him as a more serious character. I felt his frustrations with the marketing bullshit that was being thrust upon him, but I also adored his gradual appreciation for Johansson’s Kelly Jones.

Scarlett Johansson is equally as brilliant in her role. Kelly Jones is clever, driven and somewhat manipulative. But her biggest test is the almost impossible mission she is given. Johansson can also slip in and out of countless personas as Kelly Jones turns on an accent to garner support from government stakeholders. The accents are flawless and provide a subtle comedy that I was not expecting. Together, Tatum and Johansson are a pairing which surprised me and is one thoroughly relished. Their chemistry is believable and the comedy they execute together is subtle yet still enjoyable.

There is also a stellar supporting cast with Anna Garcia as Jones’ assistant, Noah Robbins, and Donald Elise Watkins as Cole Davis’ engineering colleagues. Jim Rash is hilarious as the overly camp and fabulous film director, Lance. Woody Harrelson is sly, mysterious, and subtly funny as the government spook, Moe Berkus. But the biggest surprise would have to be Ray Romano in the role of Henry Smalls.

Having worked with Cole Davis since the Apollo 1 mission, Romano has a very empathetic role to play with the character. I don’t think I have ever seen Ray Romano on the big screen before, but he absolutely smashed it in his portrayal of Smalls. Notable mention to a little black cat that steals the whole show – watch the film and you will see what I mean.

Overall, Fly Me to the Moon is a very enjoyable, funny and exciting look back at one of the most defining moments in modern history. The romantic aspect is not forced and is a natural growth in the relationship between the two leads. Although it did take a while to get to the conspiracy theory payoff, it was worth it. But the biggest surprise was how serious the film is. I went in somewhat expecting Fly Me to the Moon to be a full-on mockumentary, but I was gladly proven wrong.

Fly Me to the Moon is the most surprising film I have seen in some time. I laughed, I almost cried, and I was consistently captivated throughout. Fly Me to the Moon is a clever and entertaining spin on history that leans into the conspiracy theory that has been floating around for almost 50 years. I highly recommend a viewing immediately.

Fly Me to the Moon is in cinemas July 11.

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