The Right Stuff

Preceded by Houghton Tour at 4:30pm
Directed by Philip Kaufman.
With Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris.
USA, 1983, DCP, color and b&w, 193 min.
DCP source: Warner Bros.

Philip Kaufman’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s bestselling book remains an exciting, accomplished piece of filmmaking and a fascinating specimen of Americana. In compiling a team of physically and mentally fit daredevils who weren’t too unmanageable, the US government was also crafting the ideal American heroes: rugged, rough-around-the-edges, independent men who were ultimately team players as anxious as their superiors to beat the Russians in the race to outer space. Bolstered by Caleb Deschanel’s beautiful cinematography and Jordan Belson’s realistic special effects, the remarkable ensemble character-actor cast—whose careers the film also helped launch into orbit—forms the convincing heart of The Right Stuff. By focusing on five of the Mercury Seven, the film delves just deep enough into both their personal and suddenly very public lives, while acknowledging the emotional toll taken on their wives during these extraordinarily high-risk missions into the unknown. This thrilling portrait of the first astronauts also features surprising details and asides, such as the role the press and individual astronauts had in influencing protocol and operations. NASA’s team of headstrong, competitive men whose nation is—at times recklessly—engaged in fierce global competition stands in elucidating contrast to the recent black hole event involving the collaboration of diverse teams of scientists from around the world.

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