THE DISH was the largest grossing movie in Australia last year. The story is about the Australian crew of one of the two satellite dishes tracking Apollo 11, the first manned flight to land on the moon. Leading the crew is a man named Cliff, who’s about to turn 52 and lost his wife a year ago. Although they have more bravado than expertise, they manage to overcome some comical mishaps and accomplish their mission.
THE DISH is winsome and leaves you with a feeling of joy that these men were able to overcome incredible odds to place a man on the moon and bring him back. Sam Neill is particularly excellent in this movie as Cliff. However, it is sad that they covered up a mistake with a lie. They even discuss the fact that lying is wrong, but they do it to buy themselves time. Although the movie is devoid of sex and violence, there is a significant number of lightweight obscenities. THE DISH also has some positive references to God, plus a terrific church scene with a sincere prayer by an archetypal Anglican priest at a crucial moment
(BB, CC, Ab, LL, A, D, M) Moral worldview with some positive references to God, a satiric view of politically correct socialist dogma, a terrific church scene but another major scene that condones lying; 18 light obscenities as well as several uses of the word "bloody" with a strong Australian accent & 5 exclamatory profanities as well as several uses of "God bless you"; no violence but threat of disaster on the first moonwalk; no nudity; no sex; alcohol; smoking; and, lying as a major plot point.
First APOLLO 13, and now THE DISH, which is no less interesting even though it moves the focus from the astronauts themselves to the men behind the scenes. In this case, the men behind the scenes are three Australians operating a big radio/TV satellite dish commissioned by NASA to track Apollo 11 the first attempt to send men to the moon: Cliff, the “dish master” who’s about to turn 52 and lost his wife a year ago; Mitch, the hot-headed dish operator; and, Glenn, the shy, young mathematical wizard. They are joined by NASA specialist Al Burnett, who seems too buttoned up for this laid back Australian outpost of science. In fact, Mitch is quite annoyed with what he perceives as Al’s air of superiority.
Since their dish is one of only two satellite dishes monitoring Apollo 11, it is critical to the high-risk mission. While this radio telescope crew gets ready for going on line, the small town of Parkes, Australia is preparing itself for world attention. The mayor, who some thought of as a fool for building the dish, is now a hero who is preparing to receive the U.S. ambassador and the Australian Prime Minister, as well as the tons of media attention.
The moment of truth arrives when Apollo 11 takes off , and it becomes clear that the Australian team has more bravado than expertise. In fact, during one crucial point in the flight, a local power outage knocks out the dish. Cliff covers with NASA by saying it must be a down line fault. Al is shocked that Cliff would lie, but then loosens up and allows the lie to stand while they scramble to get the dish back on line. Mitch apologizes for failing to prime the backup generator and for his bad attitude.
After many hours of intense worry by the team and the mayor, and a funny episode where they pretend to be astronauts on a walkie talkie to appease the American ambassador, they get the dish back online. Even so, the Apollo flight is much more treacherous than anyone knew who watched the historical event on TV. Al points out that NASA made a lot of mistakes which it hid from the public. For instance, ten days before Apollo 11 blasted off, a rocket blew up at the Kennedy Space Center. Now, as the landing craft approaches the moon, the scientists at Parkes realize it’s running out of fuel.
Watching this bumbling behind the scenes makes one wonder how we got to the moon at all. Of course, that’s the point. In a critical scene, Mitch asks Cliff how he became so laid back after his wife’s death. Cliff replies that his wife told him that failure is never as bad as regret. Thus, the message is to take a risk. Even so, at the critical moment, the town comes together in church to pray, with an archetypal Anglican priest giving a very sincere invocation.
THE DISH is devoid of sex or violence, unless you consider the threat of losing the astronauts, which results in some excruciatingly intense moments. However, the movie is peppered with many lightweight obscenities and repeated use of the word “Bloody.” The movie skewers the daughter of the mayor for her politically correct, socialist views, and her family urges her to get a sense of humor. It also has a couple of references to “God bless you” as well as the terrific church scene.
THE DISH was the largest grossing movie in Australia last year. Everything about it is winsome and leaves you with a feeling of joy that these men were able to overcome incredible odds to place a man on the moon and bring him back. However, it is sad that they covered up their mistake with a lie. They even discuss the fact that lying is wrong, but they do it to buy themselves time. Eventually, Al concedes to the ruse.
This is not an American movie. Those who want polished Hollywood performances will instead find quirky Australian behavior. These are people who live next door, captured in all their humanity. Sam Neill is particularly excellent in this movie as Cliff. These characters will win you over unless you’re one of those critics who prefer method acting.
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