"Small steps in filmmaking of a our greatest leap"
The Working Dog team responsible for the surprise success The Castle is back with The Dish. It’s a fair film of the extraordinary story of the Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969 and Australia’s role in it. The story telling is only OK, but the amazing events central to the story saves this film from mediocrity.A reason that the Olympics was such a success is that we Australians were desperate to show that we are world players. We were right in the middle of the world’s stage and we weren’t going to ruin this rare opportunity.
Most of the time we are paranoid about feeling left out in world events and so when anything big happens we are left to finding some sort of vague Australian connection.
One of the world’s biggest events – if not the biggest ever – was the first moon landing in 1969. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and some other guy that no one remembers were on their way to making a giant leap for mankind. Australia had to make some sort of connection to this. And we did in the form of the Parkes radio telescope that was to play a role in communicating with the lunar module. The Dish tells their story of the Parkes radio telescope and the people behind it.
There is nothing special about the way the film was made. As with The Castle it is all very basic shooting and nothing really that spectacular to look at. Director Rob Sitch again has control of the film, but there is nothing in the film that leaves you feeling that he has left his mark on the film. The writing and characters has the distinctive style of the Working Dog team, but as far as filmmaking goes there is nothing special.
As with The Castle a lot of the characters are well meaning yet dumbed down. It might work with one or two characters, but not when it’s most of them. Two of the central characters thankfully are not like this – Sam Neil and Neil Warburton give dignity to their characters. The filmmakers should be praised for not descending Warbuton’s character into yank bashing bait as it so easily could have been.
The film has a couple of sub plots that don’t really go anywhere and you’re left wondering why they’re there in the first place. Sam Neil’s character’s lost wife, and the Mayor’s daughter and her suitor. They don’t really add to the story and have unsatisfying endings.
This all points to only a mediocre film, but the effective way that the sheer excitement and tension of the moon landing itself - and how the people of Parkes got themselves caught up in it - elevates this film to a more than satisfying level. The film mixes original footage and interplays it with the new action. It all blends together well putting the viewer in the middle of the thrill of one of history’s great events.The Dish is a solid telling of a truly great event. It is in the colossal event of the moon landing and the way that Sitch conveys the feeling of that moment that sets the film as a satisfying experience.