Thursday, December 16, 2010

Magnificent Seven

Kurosawa made Seven Samurai in 1954, Sturges re-imagined it in 1960 as The Magnificent Seven, however the real Magnificent Seven can be found in the 1979 novel The Right Stuff and the 1983 movie of the same name.

The plot is a story about Chuck Yeager and about the Mercury Seven (Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton) who were the original people in the astronaut training program in the US. Highly recommend the amazing book and movie about people with the testicular fortitude to go where the nation needed them, and not to sound cliche, but where no man has gone before, and in some cases, since.
The movie is generally kind of slow, and may not necessarily be for all viewers, but it definitely works for me. It starts off with Sam Shepard portraying the legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager at the moment when the military recruits him for their first attempt at breaking the sound barrier, and as history tells us, he broke that, and subsequently almost all other flying records for as long as he was in his prime. However when it came time to pick the pilots that would make up the Space Program, he was not eligible as he was not a college boy. After various excruciating tests the Magnificent Seven were picked, it was apparent that the astronauts felt that instead of a monkey doing a man's job by testing out the space capsule first, they were doing a monkey's job by sitting in a capsule with no windows and no way to actually pilot the machine, with computers doing all the work. This was resolved through what I think is the largest theme of the movie: the role of the media. The astronauts threatened to use the media to work against the space program by ruining the public opinion of the operation, thereby cutting the funding. While this was perhaps a positive move that helped the space program in the end, the movie also portrayed how reporters would not stop hounding the families of the brave few, and drove everyone crazy. Brilliant performances all around, but the standouts are from Ed Harris portraying John Glenn, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, and Dennis Quaid as Gordon "Hot Dog" Cooper. If you have any interest in anything to do with the space program, military, or good movies and stories in general, do yourself a favor and watch this if you haven't already.

If you liked that movie, read other Tom Wolfe classics: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and The Bonfire of the Vanities

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