“Apollo 18” opens with some very convincing “documentary” footage reminiscent of the stated time period (i.e. “1974”), setting the stage for what was purported to be the record of a secret “final mission” to the lunar surface... and further setting the stage for the even greater mystery which lay in store.A triumvirate of NASA astronauts are given the dubious honor of being the final American crew to set foot upon Earth's natural satellite, but they will of necessity have to settle for being “unsung” heroes, as theirs is a “Top Secret” mission sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Under the belief that the D.O.D. mission is tied to the establishment of a lunar-based “early warning” missile defense system as a counterbalance to America's arms race with the Soviet Union (remember, this was all still during the “Cold War” era), the pair who comprise the “landing crew” who get to enjoy the privilege of actually patrolling & surveying the foreign topography very quickly begin to suspect that perhaps their mission has less to do with learning about the movements & activities of the “Ruskies” and more to do with something possibly far more sinister; thus raising the question: Are these three astronauts “explorers”? ...Or are they “lab rats”?
Suspicions continue to abound as the landing party repeatedly encounters inexplicable phenomena, including vanishing collected geological samples, unexplained damage to props & equipment, and ultimately hard evidence that others have been to their little corner of Luna prior to their own arrival... by visitors not of any previous “Apollo” mission!
By the time the crew does learn the truth, it is of course “too late,” and thus they are left to rely on their own wits in order to survive and to find their way back home.
Filled with seeming nods to other darkly-shot claustrophobic space-themed movies such as “Alien,” “Creature,” and “Moon,”“Apollo 18” delivers both a sense of wonder & awe as well as a sense of dread & despair, and forces us to uncomfortably contemplate: Just to what extent would our own Governments sell out their own citizens-- even those who are often elevated to “hero” status --in order to both “uncover” then subsequently “guard” sensitive information which may prove to have quite literally a “universal” impact?Think twice before deciding to make any rash commitments to embark on a “secret mission” for your “Friendly Neighborhood Gum'mint”... whether it be for the sake of “patriotic duty” or for “glory & fame” -- because it just may not be “consolation” enough going into it knowing that they may name a park or an elementary school after you should you not return from your long trip.