APOLLO 13 is one of those films you either love or hate, and how you respond to it seems to depend on how important you feel that the story of humanity's quest to reach out into space actually is. However, as a fictionalized account of a true story about trying to survive against all the odds there's precious little to beat it.
The semi-documentary style is a really effective way to tell the story and as such gives a lot of technical insight into the fascinating story of America's quest to put men on the moon. The attention to detail in the production design is phenomenal with both mission control and the spacecraft hardware being recreated in loving detail. Sadly, such meticulous attention to detail cannot extend to some of the finer points of the script because the nature of telling a five day story in just over two hours means that the scriptwriters by necessity have to play around a little with - and add "drama" to - the actual events and personalities involved. Whether such a compelling story needs drama adding to it is debateable, but I suppose that that's just part of the art of moviemaking. In-flight disagreements, dream sequences and the fact that a number of outstanding members of the NASA staff are compressed into fewer characters, are all examples of liberties made to make the story more "cinematic", but despite that, all the essentials of what remains a truly human story despite all the technology are still there and you are left with a vivid and lasting impression of what happened during what many consider to be NASA's "finest hour". Ron Howard proves, once again to be a master at manipulating the emotions as you are carried along with the plight of these brave men, their families and their support staff and you'd have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the ending.
This "special edition" includes 2 commentaries. Ron Howard gives you the Director's opinions from the point of view of a film production on the first and the second is from the perspective of the astronaut played by Tom Hanks in the film, Jim Lovell and his wife Marilyn which adds a much more "real world" perspective on the proceedings. The documentary package on disc 2 is excellent with a 58 minute piece on the real flight of Apollo 13, a 48 minute NASA piece looking at a wider history of spaceflight, and a 12 minute US television piece about the mission including short interviews with some of those involved.