The Right Stuff is a humdinger. Full of beauty, intelligence and excitement, this big-scale look at the development of the US space program and its pioneering aviators provides a fresh, entertaining look back at the recent past. Film version of Tom Wolfe’s best selling revisionist history was some three years in the making.
Tale spans 16 years, from ace test pilot Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier over the California desert to Vice-President Johnson’s welcoming of the astronauts to their new home in Houston with an enormous barbecue inside the Astrodome. Telling takes over three hours, but it goes by lickity-split under Philip Kaufman’s direction and is probably the shortest-seeming film of its length ever made.
Emblematic figure here is Yeager, played by a taciturn Sam Shepard. As the ace of aces who was passed by for astronaut training due to his lack of college degree, Yeager, for Kaufman as for Wolfe, is the embodiment of ‘the right stuff’, that ineffable quality which separates the men from the boys, so to speak.
Nominations: Best Picture, Supp. Actor (Sam Shepard), Cinematography, Art Direction