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The Right Stuff – A Highly Acclaimed Movie About the Space Race and Its Human Cost

The Right Stuff is a Hollywood movie made by Philip Kaufman in 1983 and an adaption of the eponymous novel written by Tom Wolfe and published in 1979. The 193-minute film is set in the backdrop of the early days of the US space program after the Second World War and the selection of Mercury Seven, the country’s first astronauts. The movie’s plot revolves around the testing program launched by the US for high-speed rocket-powered aircraft in Southern California. The film focuses on the astronauts and their wives, the politicians, the NASA officials, and the journalists. They were involved in the awesome heroic adventure that sometimes appears funny and surreal.

The Right Stuff – High drama at its best

The high-pitched drama is an honest and ambitious attempt to portray some of the most persistent moral ambiguities plaguing the nation. The storyline captures the nation’s unabashed idolization of heroes, its ambiguous relationship with technology underlined by a love-hate relationship, its contradictory notions in giving due value to teamwork, and an insatiable hunger for conquering new frontiers. The film portrays reality innovatively and engagingly and poses as a trusted documentary despite having its roots in fiction. The theme adapts a documentary-style narrative. The rich theme embraces reality by deft mixing documentary footage from the past with staged action and heavy doses of incredibly vivid special effects. The film has a large cast, and the acting is highly commendable, especially when portraying some real-life characters. The superb cinematography by Caleb Deschanel is the jewel in the crown.

The Men and The Events

The Right Stuff movie shows an infuriated American President Dwight D Eisenhower, who is dealt a blow as the Soviets became the first nation to launch the space vehicle Sputnik I into outer space. The President and Senator Lyndon B Johnson are set to accelerate the American space program. They are hell-bent on sending a man and reject the idea of the majority sending a monkey or a chimpanzee.   Recounting the days of America’s space program formation, the film covers the events over 15 years, focusing on the original Mercury Seven astronauts. The film depicts the dangers and frustrations faced by the astronauts, the various personal crises within the astronauts’ families, and the contradictions between the spotless public images of the Mercury pilots and their occasional raunchy shenanigans.

 The Cast

Sam Shepard leads The Right Stuff cast as Chuck Yeager, an air force test pilot who was the first to break the sound barrier in 1947. Barbara Hershey plays his proud wife, Glennis. Newcomer pilot couples Gordo (Dennis Quaid) and his wife Trudy Cooper (Pamela Reed), Gus (Fred Ward) and Betty Grisom (Veronica Cartwright), Deke (Scott Pauline) and Marge Slayton (Mickey Crocker) join Yeager and Glennis at Edwards Air Base.

As the young pilots keep stretching their limits in the sky, the wives live with the constant threat of their husbands dying in a plane crash.

The Right Stuff is a grim reminder about the human cost of space exploration, as evident from the disaster of The Challenger and Columbia.

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