Sunday, January 29, 2006

[DVD] The Right Stuff (1983)

If you're into aviation and the outer space programme, then this movie is for you. Chronicling the lives of the early pioneers of jet planes, the NASA Mercury astronauts, and the space race, The Right Stuff tells the story of the lives of these men, and what exactly fuels them to take on life-threatening missions to propel humans into the final frontier.

But this movie is not a documentary, and doesn't play out as such. It's a dramatized account based on the book by Tom Wolfe. We begin by witnessing Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) breaking the sound barrier - Mach 1, in the record breaking X-1 plane. The movie then takes on two diverse acts, those of the pilots in competition to become the fastest men alive, and the other which shows the space race pioneers, NASA's 7 Mercury astronauts in Alan Shepard (Scott Glenn), John Glenn (Ed Harris), Gordon Cooper (Dennis Quaid), Gus Grissom (Fred Ward), Deke Slayton (Scott Paulin), Scott Carpenter (Charles Frank) and Wally Schirra (Lance Henriksen).

While their missions are different, their character traits are similar. To always beat the competition and set new records. They are pilots, so the usual stereotypical cocky arrogant attitudes come into play. What makes them special, is that they got the unexplainable Right Stuff, to have what it takes to push the envelope. Their wives are also put under a minor spotlight, as they band together and wring their hands while awaiting news of their husbands safe arrival from their missions. Bear in mind that these are the first manned space missions (though very simple), and in those days, the astronauts travelled alone, not in teams in flight.

If you'd enjoy Apollo 13, then this movie treads on almost the same ground. Except that there is no single, gripping "death in your face" moment as played out as in the Ron Howard movie. We see how politics comes into play in events that help boost national pride, and how the Americans and Russians outplay each other by constantly going one up against each other. We also experience how the pilots deal with being the "it" person for the moment - you're the hero now, but after the next mission by someone else, you'll soon be forgotten.

It's a drama based on real events, enough to engage you for a good three hours to experience the one-up-manship between pilots and the nations engaged in the space race.

This Code 1 DVD is full of facts and figures for the aviation/NASA buff, with information ranging from cast and production, to the individual pilot bios and the NASA timeline on the Mercury programme.

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