THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) – This is America (Don’t Catch You Slippin’)

I watched the 1983 film documenting the story of test pilots reaching into the era of the first NASA Mercury program, ‘The Right Stuff’, this past week. And DAMN was it good. This is what filmmaking is when it rises to epic poetry… On the surface it could be a story of lives and events, feats and action. While in the subtext whole worlds are revealed and offered up for the thinking viewers vivisection as the lights and sounds of moving image dances before you. When I think of a ‘movie’, one sense of the thing is that it takes you on a journey, and that in the end you have been changed. This is a film that makes that felt, the gravity force you are strapped into a miraculous leap in the discovery of its climax. This is what America is. Are these conservative values? Is John Glenn a square, a boy scout, or the darkest rebel of them all? Is Chuck Yeager the voice of science in the flesh, when the test pilots bandy about at their small watering hole, refusing to talk about what ‘the right stuff’ is out loud, less so to strangers. Or is he the anti-scientism mystic wizard, meditating on strange eddies in the thin air past the sound barrier, the demon that tears you apart they whisper about. It’s out there, and still, we climb. I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares do more is none. I repeat. This is what America is. End of story.

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