'The Farthest': Seattle International Film Festival movie review
With a deep reverence for the most important space mission of the 20th century, "The Farthest" (screening at the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival starting May 19) is a fascinating, profound and beautiful celebration of a landmark in human exploration.
In short: In the late 1970s, NASA launched the Voyager space missions - a pair of probes sent on a one-way trip from Earth to become the first human-made objects to leave the solar system. This documentary interviews the scientists and engineers who created the probes and explores the vision behind the mission.
In this age, where NASA always seems to announce the discovery of another new planet orbiting a star light years away, it seems weird to consider a time when scientists - not just everyday people - did not know much about even Jupiter or Saturn. "The Farthest" takes a step back to offer context - that within a lifetime, humans went from sending no objects beyond the Earth to sending a pair of probes beyond the most distant planets. It's only from that starting point that the importance and significance of the Voyager missions begins. The interview subjects eloquently convey the staggering obstacles the probes had to overcome in sending a machine the size of bus with pinpoint precision through the solar system.
"The Farthest" balances a loving, lyrical excitement for space exploration with a totally accessible explainer of engineering and astrophysics. Veteran scientists eloquently put the immensity and scale of the mission into perspective. As the probes approach Saturn, Jupiter and the outer planets - for the first time - the film beautifully shows a progression of images as the probes approach the planets. Small fuzzy dots eventually grow into larger, stark images. "The Farthest" puts into context what we take for granted and, at presents it with enthusiastic joy.
The magic of this documentary is its poignancy for the amazing engineering feats overcome as well as the historic ramifications, for all humanity, of sending a human-made object into interstellar space. A pure excitement and passion permeates the film. A lesser version of this documentary would be a straightforward, dry history lesson - but "The Farthest" instead opts to wax poetic about one of humankind's greatest accomplishments.
Final verdict: A love letter to scientific curiosity and a pioneering spirit, "The Farthest" is an inspiring celebration of science and exploration. A cosmologist interviewed in the film sums up the underlying theme of this film best: "The beautiful thing about science is the ideas."
"The Farthest" screens at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival. This documentary is unrated and has a running time of 121 minutes.