Tub-thumping story of how America conquered the final frontier
Not just an epic three-hour Oscar-winning adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s best-selling account of the infamous Cold War ‘race to space’, nor simply a showcase for the burgeoning talents of messrs Quaid, Harris and Shepard. No, The Right Stuff, at its kernel, is director Philip Kaufman’s love poem to machismo. Making Peckinpah look like a patsy, and pointing the way for Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer, Kaufman thunders through the film’s detailed account of NASA’s manned-flight Mercury program with a near mystical regard for the chrome sheen of jet planes, rockets, silver jumpsuits, helmets and cavernous air hangars. In this world of prototype adrenaline junkies, men walk in slow motion and risk their lives just so they can “punch a hole in the sky”, and fly up “to where the demons live, at about Mach 2.3”. Brazenly phallic, chest-thumping, alpha-male entertainment. But in the best way.