Guy Cry Cinema
Why Apollo 13 Makes Guys Cry

Firefilm | 12 Aug 2014 19:00
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There's even a prolonged discussion between Tom and his four-year-old kid about Apollo 1. While the kid is scared -- because three of his dad's buddies were somehow killed in a fire while merely sitting on the launch pad and trying to talk -- Tom is every bit the good father and reassures his son that everything that went wrong is fixed, and his flight will be different. And that's true. He will have a different type of major catastrophe.
Despite the omens, everything is so routine about this trip to the Moon that Tom's wife almost doesn't watch the launch, the TV networks don't air the live broadcast from the rocket, and Ron Howard's weird-looking brother is allowed to work at ground control. But when things go wrong, you better believe Ed Harris and his fantastic haircut bursts in and takes things over.

The horrible thing about being in the public eye is that if things go wrong, everyone sees it. Worse still is if you're the family member of someone in the limelight, you have to watch them fail or die while everyone else asks how you're doing (not well, I would guess). The human half of Turner and Hooch, with his crew of Bacon and Hicks, start flailing wildly as everything starts blowing up. Meanwhile, Tom's family has to endure the horribly increased celebrity status that this disaster has afforded them.

Herein lays the true core of why guys get choked up at this film. It's not necessarily a butt-clenched hope that Tom, Bacon and Hicks can get home safely without freezing, burning or exploding. We cry seeing what this disaster does to the families of the doomed astronauts. Part of being a "manly" man is the instinct to protect your family, even if that means protecting them from seeing you get hurt. When a crisis is happening to us, we tend to retreat into ourselves and become very private in order to spare our families that worry. The world press was having none of that in this case.

Tom's wife keeps a stoic resolve on her face for the children and the press, but has her breakdown in private in order to mirror this protection instinct and show the motherly side of it as well. Also, the four-year-old is informed of the disaster with his father's craft and immediately connects it to the Apollo 1 tragedy.

In the back of Tom's mind, right next to the "Damn, I wanted some Moon cheese" was the thought that his family was going to watch him die on national television. Each explosion, oxygen leak and Kevin Bacon being Kevin Bacon was another nail in his coffin that his family would have to see every time they looked at the sky. The powerlessness of it is heartbreaking, that despite his competent crew and team of experts trying to fix the problem in Houston, he couldn't protect his family from the immediate pain.

This frustration even manifests itself in Tom's one moment of irrational action: he tears his medical sensors from his torso, stating "I'm sick of the entire Western world knowing how my kidneys are functioning!" While this was an immediate reaction to unrealistic orders from the flight surgeon, it was also the character trying in vain to hide even a small aspect of the emergency from his loved ones and friends.

Spoilers for a 45-year-old real life event and a 20-year-old movie, they make it home alive. Certainly a close call, and a worthy movie to get choked up at.

Like what you see? Secure enough in your masculinity for more? Dan also works on No Right Answer, the weekly debate show that knows what's really important: Pointlessly arguing about geek culture.

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