films like seven samurai make my “job” as a reviewer extremely easy. films like the right stuff make it difficult. on paper this is a good film, but it’s one that i never found myself loving. films like this remind me of that part in boogie nights after the conversion is made from film to video tape and the cinematographer is directing two lesbians in a sex scene. they’re both naked and touching each other, and he says something like “yeah yeah, that’s good technically, but it needs a little more feeling.” well this is one of those many films that gets awards and is good in a lot of ways, but just doesn’t do it for me. it has the right idea – a good, exciting subject, a good and capable cast, a good score by bill conti, some nice direction from philip kaufman, some good comic relief (though i would have liked to see even more of jeff goldblum and harry shearer), etc. in spite of these things, though, the film never really excelled for me. i was interested in spurts, but never fully engrossed.
part of the film’s downfall was its length which led to a few flat spots. shaving off 15 minutes would have gone a long way. i also would have liked to see more in the way of their mental preparation. we see a lot of physical tests, but we never see them talking about contingencies or coming up with any ideas (other than their suggestion to “add a window and a door” on the space pod). films that incorporate strategy and technical details (e.g., heat, godfather, and seven samurai) tend to be more realistic and interesting.