RETRO ROCKET

This boyish streak shows up splendidly in Hanks' turn as Lovell--when he's told he must return to Earth without landing on the moon, his face wears the droopy pout of a kid who's gotten as far as the Disneyland parking lot before being told that he must turn around and go home. Lovell's disappointment is almost equal to his fear for his life. If Kaufman had directed, he might have viewed this whole aspect of the film--the great phallic ship made to turn back from its target because of a leak--as a kind of cosmic coitus interruptus. But with Howard at the helm, Hanks becomes Opie Taylor, told to go home early from the fishing hole.

Hanks, Kevin Bacon as Swigert, Gary Sinise as Ken Mattingly and especially Bill Paxton as the Mississippian Haise all capture the astronaut thing--how hard they all tried to be Gary Cooper, and how often they succeeded only in making themselves seem bland and unmemorable. But Howard, rather than mocking these men for their blandness, uses it to make them more poignant. Part of what makes Hanks so appropriate to star in Apollo 13 is that his character is a limited man in an incongruously awesome situation. In the typical Apollo astronaut, there appears to have been more than a little Forrest Gump.

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