The Right Stuff (1983)
Reviewed on 2007 February 9
This was such a cool movie. It did a wonderful job of telling the story of the Mercury 7 astronauts, starting with the days before Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier and winding up with a triumphant orbit over the earth. Not only did it hold my interest for the entire running time, but I think it used great visuals and a terrific soundtrack.
The movie starts with the funeral of a test pilot, and a series of memorial photos on a bar wall shows how many times things have gone horribly wrong. The tension and sense of risk are constant themes throughout the movie, and permeate it no matter how funny the astronauts can be. This makes the scene where Glennis Yeager (Barbara Hershey) is anxiously waiting for Chuck (Sam Shepard) to break the sound barrier extremely tense. Yeager’s amazing accomplishment doesn’t do much to calm down Lyndon B. Johnson (Donald Moffat) and a group of scientists watching bootlegged footage of what the Russians are doing in Star City, and NASA was formed a year later. They need seven good men to pull off Project Mercury. After a series of tests that look like something the Grimm brothers concocted, they have their crew — 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 Walter Schirra (Lance Hendrikson). Now they just have to launch them into space and bring them back safely.
The ensemble cast of the astronauts and their wives is fantastic and the chemistry and camaraderie between both groups is wonderful. It’s fun to watch the men pick on each other one moment and then rally around each other when they need to. Philip Kaufman did a great job directing. The Star City sequences look like a bad dream. I’m sure to our scientists watching the real thing during the Cold War, it was.
Three chocolate morsels and a cup of coffee (or four).