This 20th anniversary edition of Apollo 13 — based on a real-life space expedition that nearly ended in disaster — is an impressive set. It includes all the bonus features of the 15th (yes, five years later, we have a new version) anniversary edition, cleans up the sound and picture, and adds a few new goodies.
Of course, the bonus features would be meaningless if the movie was lousy, but Apollo 13 is a gripping suspense film about the third American moon landing that went very wrong. The astronauts were heading to the moon when an explosion stranded them and threatened to kill them in space. The expedition shortly followed the celebrated 1969 moon landing, so public attention was until the crisis hit.
Tom Hanks leads a solid cast, including Gary Sinise, Kevin Bacon and Ed Harris, while Ron Howard's direction is lean and assured. This film is still gripping to watch after all these years. The Blu-ray's new features include a 12-minute "Apollo 13: 20 Years Later" featurette in which Howard and producer Brian Grazer look back at the film's pre-production and comment on this new video transfer. The duo offers some general insights, but Howard reveals more detail and passion in his audio commentary. The other audio commentary is by astronaut Jim Lovell (who Tom Hanks portrays) and his wife, Marilyn. Their memories and emotions about the crisis add context and weight to the film's depiction of the mission.
Both commentaries and three featurettes are carried over from the 15th anniversary DVD: the hour-long "Lost Moon" chronicles the making of the film as told by Howard, Grazer, Hanks, the starring cast and the astronauts themselves; the slightly shorter and less interesting "Conquering Space" offers background about the space race, adding a needed history lesson; finally, "Lucky 13" is an except from an NBC special profiling the astronauts around the time of the movie's original 1995 release. A new bonus feature on this Blu-ray is the "U Control," in which factoids about the actual space mission pop up as text during certain moments of the film.
If you already own the 15th anniversary edition, then you have the bulk of this edition, albeit with a slightly dirtier picture and slightly duller audio track; perhaps, mega-fans with top-notch surround sound systems and large HD TVs will appreciate the upgrade. For those who don't own this film on home video, this Blu-ray is an essential purchase.