Apollo 13 – ITV4

A meticulous recreation of true-story space drama. 4/5 stars

Director Ron Howard’s meticulous recreation of the ill-fated 1970 lunar mission is high on both suspense and special effects. Even though the ending is a foregone conclusion, the film is still a real nail-biter in the way it explores the nature of human courage, which had to kick in after a catastrophic mechanical failure and explosion on the craft’s outward journey to the Moon.

Focusing on the increasingly desperate improvisations required to keep the three astronauts alive, if anything, the scenes on the ground are even more exciting than those set inside their crippled capsule.

As the stricken trio, Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon are all astronomically good, but even better are the contributions Gary Sinise and Ed Harris make on the ground as the key men at Mission Control. Complete with a white waistcoat, Harris’ forthright style peaks with his classic lines: ‘We’ve never lost an American in space. We’re certainly not going to lose one on my watch!’

And, all the time the film is bulging with nostalgia for a time when scientists still used slide rules and the only way to reach the Final Frontier was in a tiny capsule called Apollo perched atop a giant rocket called Saturn V. Outstanding on all levels.