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Sherlock’s Classics: Film Review – The Right Stuff (1983)

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With the passing of astronaut John Glenn on 8 December, I thought it a fitting time to pay tribute this extraordinary man who fired the imagination of millions of young baby boomers in the 1960’s when he became the first astronaut to circle the earth, and when the city of Perth turned their lights on and the world lit up.

The Right Stuff is the epic and spectacular story of the original U.S. Mercury 7 astronauts and their macho at the birth the space program and space exploration, all in the shadow of legendary pilot Chuck Yeager and his breaking of the sound barrier.  

From the opening frame to the last you are compelled and totally gripped by every step of their extraordinary journey of adventure and wonder during times of tragedy, political upheaval and racial turmoil.   

Based on the best- selling book by Tom Wolfe and written and directed with tremendous skill and fierce grip by Philip Kaufman (the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers), and the entire cast, are all right at their peak.

Ed Harris gives a career defining, star-making performance as legendary space pioneer John Glenn, as do others including Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper, Fred Ward as Gus Grissom and Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager. 

Production design, period detail, editing, sound mixing and rousing Oscar winning music score by Bill Conti (Rocky) make this a rare example of exemplary filmmaking and storytelling at its best on every level.

Coming in at three hours and thirteen minutes in length, this thrilling roller coaster historical adventure is still isn’t long enough. Nominated for eight Academy awards, including Best Picture, winning four.

Stars: *****