Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Countdown (1967)

Starring James Caan, Joanna Moore, Robert Duvall, Barbara Baxley, Charles Aidman
Directed by Robert Altman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

As NASA ramps up efforts to land a man on the moon before the Russians can, they change their choice for the astronaut, giving him only three weeks to train for the mission.

A realistic imagining of the behind-the-scenes preparations for the first lunar mission, this film has a timely resonance, released only a year before Neil Armstrong actually set foot on the moon.  Drama is mined from the original astronaut being passed over, the impact of the new astronaut's mission on his wife, and a concerned doctor trying to talk him out of the mission, well-conveyed by a fine cast including Caan, Moore, Duvall, and Aidman.  However, the film doesn't really become exciting until the rocket takes off, culminating in a climactic sequence on the moon highlighted by a fantastic lunar set.

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