I’ve been a science fiction fan for as long as I can remember, but I’ve realized that my fascination is really more about space travel. Sure alien invasion and killer robot stories fit under the vast science-fiction umbrella, but I want to see ships. I started with Star Wars when I was three, and around the time I was 12, I began really watching Star Trek. In between those two events, though, one other movie about spaceflight grabbed my attention, and this one was (mostly) true!
This week’s Pick, The Right Stuff, based on the book of the same name by Tom Wolfe, is a 1983 film chronicling the early years of America’s space program. The film actually begins earlier than that with Chuck Yaeger and the breaking of the sound barrier. From there, the film follows the selection of the original astronauts, their training, and the subsequent Mercury flights.
While the movie takes some small dramatic license with events (Hence my “mostly” aside in the first paragraph), it doesn’t go too far afield from what actually happened and presents the story in an engaging and at times quite funny manner. This is not a dry documentary.
The cast is also wonderful and filled with a number of big names in early roles including Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris (Fantastic as John Glenn), Scott Glenn (Wonderful and very funny as Alan Shepard), Lance Henriksen, Barbara Hershey, Kathy Baker, and Jeff Goldblum. My favorite performance, though, is probably Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager. It’s not a showy role by any means, but his Yeager and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Indiana Jones were the epitome of coolness for my childhood self.
Despite being made over 30 years ago, the movie looks fantastic, and the special effects hold up today. And the soundtrack…
Ok. I’m just gushing now. I love this movie. It is one of my all-time favorites. I have to admit that I look at it with a bit of sadness now. When I was younger, this movie was inspiring because of what we had accomplished while Star Trek showed me possibilities for the future. Right now, though, the US doesn’t have the capability to get a person into space. I never thought that would happen. Hopefully it’s a small bump in our progress toward the stars, but I don’t think it would hurt for Congress to watch The Right Stuff for a reminder of what we once achieved.
- Alan Decker
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