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Fly Me To The Moon Review: Scarlett Johansson plays a deliciously complex woman in a film that's best when whimsical

Channing Tatum doesn't take off his shirt, Scarlett Johansson is in her best form, but the switch to seriousness is broken.

3/5rating
Fly Me To The Moon Review: Scarlett Johansson plays a deliciously complex woman in a film that's best when whimsical
Fly Me To The Moon Review

Last Updated: 01.50 AM, Jul 11, 2024

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Fly Me To The Moon Review: Plot - Set in the late 1960s, the US wants to build a space mission (Apollo 11) that lands a man on the moon under Cole Davis’ (Channing Tatum) leadership, aiming to become the first to do so. The competition is with the Soviets, and at stake is the pride of a nation currently obsessing over The Beatles and empathetic about the Vietnam War (whose side is subjective). How does someone make the Man On The Moon mission more popular than The Beatles and the war? Enter Kelly Jones (Scarlett Johansson), a marketing giant who takes up the task of making the mission ‘famous,’ but the President’s pet has a different plan. Will Kelly find her redemption?

Fly Me To The Moon Review: Analysis

Movies that look at history with a fictional element are the riskiest in the genre. They trade with the most sensitive historical events that change the course of history. There is so much to be careful about and so little to take creative liberty with (if you are a responsible filmmaker). With that in mind, a filmmaker sets a story right in the heart of the Cold War in America, where a team of 400,000 people is making a spaceship that will land the first man on the moon. This is a historic event that all of us saw, read about in books, and have discussed to look smart in various rooms. Now, there is a love story woven around it, with the female protagonist being the most deliciously wicked and grey woman we have seen in a minute. There is an absurdity in marrying the seriousness of the mission—how long will this marriage work?

Written by Rose Gilroy from a story by Keenan Flynn and Bill Kirstein, Fly Me To The Moon is directed by Greg Berlanti, a DC nerd with Superman & Lois, The Flash, and Supergirl to his credit, and also the creator of You (Netflix). Together, this team forms an alliance of some oddballs to tell a story that fluctuates between fiction and facts. What begins like a documentary that talks of Apollo 1 and the tragedy that followed soon transitions into a story set in the world of NASA, which is still obsessing over the fact that they have the tallest single-story building to flaunt. Amidst this, there is a space mission led by Cole Davis, a no-nonsense pilot who now doubles as a director of the project. He has a tragic past where he lost some astronauts and now blames himself for it, making Apollo 11 his route to redemption.

Fly Me To The Moon Review
Fly Me To The Moon Review

Fly Me To The Moon, while keeping the serious business at bay for most of its duration, features very blended, understated humor that shines when it has to. There is much to rave about the dialogue writing, which is impeccable even in the most inconsequential moments. From a simple “This is what happens when you support Richard Nixon,” to the brilliant taunting, “Does it bother you that a room dies as soon as you enter it?” everything lands to sheer perfection. This is a shining example of humorous dialogue writing that doesn't caricature the story. To execute it are some very stellar and brilliant actors. Jim Rash as Lance has the best timing.

But the core of Fly Me To The Moon lies in the woman it creates with Scarlett Johansson. There is not a single wrong note in her performance, but the writing is equally phenomenal in shaping her character. She is a street-smart woman who enters a room full of men with a baby bump as they try to show her her place but soon tastes defeat as she eats them raw in the process of making them her clients. She has had a scarred past, having seen the darkest of times, so now she guards herself enough to not let anyone come even close to her vulnerabilities. When she meets a man she can have a romantic bond with, even then she can only think of business. She takes the wrong route with confidence, knowing she never goes wrong and knows how to turn the tide as per her demands. A character so delicious that I mentioned it for the third time in the same review.

Fly Me To The Moon Review
Fly Me To The Moon Review

However, the same precision is lacking in shaping Channing Tatum's character. He is mostly a PMSing officer who knows nothing but one thing. Even his burnout moments feel less impactful, and the bursting out even less so because he is never explored in that way. He is mostly a device for Kelly to progress, never a single entity. His side is serious, and Kelly’s is humorous. And the switch to the serious side is broken. In a movie where the mission takes a back seat and selling it to the world takes the front seat, when it suddenly becomes about saving the mission with a haphazard screenplay, you feel like the writers just want to end it. You can see the haste in the execution of the final 20 minutes. This leads to the romance never being completely built and the male protagonist not shining almost at all.

Although Channing Tatum doesn't get to take his shirt off even once, he is still impressive in what he gets to do. The art direction and production design are brilliant. But the writing and direction rarely take us beyond the NASA campus, which was needed to understand the gravity of the mission that is about to become a golden historic moment.

Fly Me To The Moon Review: Final Verdict

Fly Me To The Moon starts off as a very interesting runner in the race but soon starts running haywire. Channing Tatum doesn't take off his shirt, Scarlett Johansson is in her best form, but the switch to seriousness is broken.

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Fly Me To The Moon releases on the big screen in India on July 12, 2024 in theatres near you in India. Stay tuned to OTTplay for more information on this and everything else from the world of streaming and films. 

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