Never really understood why some people are treating astronauts like real life heroes but after watching "The Right Stuff" I always get a better sense and understanding of it!
This has always really been one of my favorite movies to watch and one that I'm literally always in the mood for. And this is quite an accomplishment for a movie that is well over 3 hours long! It's just simply one that never drags or starts to become uninteresting at any point, due to the incredible diversity in its story and with its many characters.
I think the biggest reason why this movie works out so well is due to how it finds a perfect balance, with basically everything in it. You could really say that the movie is being very heroic and patriotic but at the same time it also shows all of the flaws of the characters and how things went very wrong at times, due to human error or even sheer stupidity at times. The movie is balanced like this with about everything! The movie is a serious one and of course based on true stories but yet it is being brought as great entertainment, with also plenty of comical situations in it. The movie is never too dramatic or heavy but also never too goofy or comical. It's a real pleasant balance that works out oh so well for this movie.
It's really great how this movie is telling an important true historical story, by telling it in a mostly very entertaining way. I believe that because of this, this movie works out 10 times better and more interesting, as it would had, had it been done as a complete serious and very straightforward 3 hour+ historical epic. It also gives "The Right Stuff" so much re-playability value to it! It's truly a movie you can watch over and over again and get grabbed by it every time.
It's still really a respectful movie toward the first astronauts, as well as to the test-pilots of the '40's/'50's, who pretty much were the predecessors of the first astronauts and did lots of important and dangerously groundbreaking stuff to get the first space program off the ground.
It's equally paying attention to most of the first astronauts, as well as to test-pilot Chuck Yeager. It's hard to say who plays the lead role of this movie really, since there is not one main character, that it constantly follows, throughout the entire movie. It also follows the stories of the women behind the men, who of course were just as important and had to endure a lot.
Basically all of the characters are really likable ones because they are portrayed like real humans, each with their own flaws and needs. It was refreshing to see real men as astronauts for a change. Men who enjoyed having a drink, the night before they had to go up into space, as opposed to all of the generic and serious scientists they are blasting off into space now days. It makes me respect the earliest astronauts all the more because they were just common men, who volunteered to do some not so very common things and constantly risked their own lives to get the job done. True pioneers of our time and also true heroes in my opinion.
It's also great to see them getting played by some great and well known actors, who all suit their roles very well and also often really look like the person they are playing. It's really an all-star cast, with people such as Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Sam Shepard, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Veronica Cartwright, Pamela Reed, Lance Henriksen, Donald Moffat and Jeff Goldblum involved but it never feels like a celebrity overkill, since everyone suits their roles so extremely well.
It's such a great written and fine told movie, not only by its actors but also really by its director Philip Kaufman, who directed the movie with a lot of eye for detail. I also really loved how I really couldn't tell when the movie was using real archive footage or footage shot specifically for the movie. It adds so much realism to the movie and its overall feeling and effectiveness.
Something that also deserves special attention is the wonderful musical score by Bill Conti. It also earned him an Oscar and the movie won 3 more, while it got also nominated for 4 others, including best picture.
This truly is how all historical, 3 hour+ long movies, should be like!