Pink Fire Pointer The Right Stuff (1983) 4.6 / 5

The Right Stuff (1983) 4.6 / 5

'The Stuff of the Right Spirit'
[your rating for the movie]
  There was a demon that lived in the air. They said whoever challenged him would die. Their controls would freeze up, their planes would buffet wildly, and they would disintegrate..
  The demon lived at Mach 1 on the meter, seven hundred and fifty miles an hour, where the air could no longer move out of the way. He lived behind a barrier through which they said no man could ever pass. They called it the sound barrier..

  One of the very first lines heard in the film, that set the tone for the odyssey ahead. The film essays the real lives, joys and heroism of the men who braved death, to break the 'sound barrier' at the Andrews air force base, and then, the beginnings of the American Space program in the Mercury missions (the precursor to the Apollo). This movie is right there with all those classics of the 80's such as the Raging Bull, E.T., Platoon, Mississippi Burning etc., and possible inspiration for equally good space tales such as the Apollo 13. Viewing this movie on DVD, I crave to see this on a bigger screen. Nevertheless, the film doesn't indulge in grand moments or glamorous shots as often as such stories tend to. It does the more difficult task of showing the poignant, personal stories of the bravura pilots and the eager astronauts.
The astro-nuts (actors) before the mercury capsule
Directed by Philip Kaufman (The unbearable lightness of Being, Henry & June), the movie has the career-making performances of the then several new-comers and present stars.
Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager,
Scott Glenn as Alan Shepherd,
Ed Harris as John Glenn,
Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper,
Fred Ward as Gus Grissom,
Scott Paulin as Deke Slayton,
Charles Frank as Scott Carpenter,
Lance Henriksen as Wally Schirra - the astronauts / pilots;
other such as
Barbara Hershey as Glennis Yeager,
Kim Stanley as Pancho Barnes, etc. make up other wonderful supporting roles.
Jeff Goldblum leaves his mark in the few scenes he appears and ofcourse, is quite a young chap here.
Sam Shepard & Chuck Yeager
  The unique tell of the movie is the 'spirit' in which the tale unfolds. There is the unusual undercurrent of the humorous along with the macho manner in which these good fellows tackle the embarrassment of challenges. You read right, embarrassments. These pilots do not have a personality to see events as failures. Only embarrassed to have met it. They know only one way to live - to win.

  It is an engrossing experience to see people who are essentially farm-hands and cowboys take the mantle of the Space Program. One of the pivotal scenes occur at the beginning when Chuck Yeager sees the test of the X1 Bell series experimental airplane, riding on his horse about the base. The shot contrasts the earthiness of the man who will tame the beast that will soar the sky to be the first in history to break the sound barrier.  

  These fellows are all charmers and heroes in their own right but I would single out a couple who come across best. Sam Shepard has the screen persona like the inimitable Blondie played by Clint Eastwood. Chuck in his interview, I read, while speaking about Sam's performance, said that he (Sam) acts like he(Chuck) flies.
Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper
My favorite of the lot though is Gordon Cooper played by Dennis. The first man to have slept soundly in the vastness of the space alone in his Mercury capsule, exhibits a rustic charm with unassuming brashness. Think Johnny Bravo meets G.I. Joe. Easily, the best role of Dennis' career I've come across yet. He admires Chuck and infact many pilots, then and now, considered him the best. Strangely, he(Chuck) never got chosen by NASA, for stupid, bureaucratic reasons. Hence, his story runs parallel to the lucky ones who get chosen to be blown up sky high on a rocket.

  Kaufman in this movie creates a unique genre that could be termed 'Experimental Epic',
The Real Nuts
as suggested by Ebert. It is engrossing yet laid back. Wholesome yet has several characters jostling in the screen to give you their story. An epic yet a personal tale of human lives and a heroic dedication of a group, that borders on the naiveté. No doubt a unique and refreshing film, I had no qualms with the some little contrivances such as the semi-comical German scientists of the Space program (I wonder if the chief scientist who has a comic interlude with Sen. Lyndon Johnson about Spe-ci-men/Spa-ce-men, represents Von Braun, creator of Saturn V and other gigantor rocket engines).

  Evidently, a movie I highly recommend to all film buffs and is the only one so far to have equaled the rating received by The Dark Knight in this blog.

'No Bucks, No Buck Rogers'