When I was a lad, growing up in the suburbs, in between playing baseball in the cow pasture and going to Saturday matinees, my friends got together and formed The Rocket Club. We were 10 or 11, and were fascinated by the nascent Mercury program. We wrote letters to NASA and in return were sent detailed publications about Mercury and Gemini, maps of the moon, and pamphlets about future travel to Mars. We gathered around black and white TV sets to watch the liftoffs, and later, the splashdowns. We were space crazy.

During my early college years, I found part-time work in the photo department at MIT’s Draper Lab. Our duties involved taking pictures of astronauts who would come there for some training. We didn’t get to chat with them, and didn’t get their names, but we knew they were on the Apollo team, and that some of them would be headed to the moon. I’m proud to say that in some small way, I was part of the Apollo 11 project. I was also still space crazy.

I still am, and I always look forward to the next astronaut-related big-screen movie event. Sometimes I’m elated (“The Right Stuff,” “Apollo 13,” “The Martian”), sometimes I’m disappointed (“First Man”), sometimes I’m embarrassed (“Apollo 18”).

This time, knowing only that “Apollo 11” was a documentary about the first moon landing, featuring a lot of previously unseen footage, I was chomping at the bit, anticipating greatness. When it was over, I was ready to see it again ... immediately.

“Apollo 11” is a documentary that doesn’t let words get in the way. There are no talking heads, no interviews. Though we do hear the comforting voice of Walter Cronkite in news reports, there’s no narrator telling us what someone thought we needed to know. It’s pure, unadulterated footage and sound recordings of the historic event that brought astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the moon, while their partner Michael Collins orbited above them, and then brought them all back.

The moon landing was on July 20, 1969. The film opens a few days earlier, with shots of the majestic Saturn V rocket slowly being moved to Launch Pad A at the Kennedy Space Center, followed by closeups of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins suiting up before taking their elevator flight up to the 326-foot level of the Saturn V.

The mind-boggling amount of footage - some of it seen before, much of it brand new to the general public’s eyes - from an uncountable number of cameras, shows what was happening inside the crowded Launch Control Center in Florida. There are tracking shots across numerous tailgate parties on beaches and by grandstands that had a good view of the launch.

Then it’s back up to the space travelers, then back to all of those people at all of those desks looking at all of those computers and monitors.

The intertwined excitement and tension grow more palpable as the edits jump between the astronauts, the technicians, and the crowds - many of them with cameras and binoculars hanging from their necks - while TV news cameras are set up in their own special areas. The sometimes droning, sometimes percussive score by Matt Morton adds to the all-round exhilaration of what’s happening, culminating in the loud, fiery liftoff, presented in crisp closeup.

From there, it’s a trip to the moon, with time taken for other news being reported (Vietnam, Chappaquiddick), and a few explanatory animations telling, for instance, how the “sphere of influence of the moon” will affect the craft. By this point, all of the Earth chatter is coming from Mission Control in Houston, and it’s complemented by footage of the astronauts in the capsule during the flight.

Upon arrival, the film provides the familiar sounds of “The Eagle has landed,” and that “one small step” quote. But I don’t recall ever hearing Armstrong say, “It’s very pretty out here.” Now I have. There’s also plenty of unseen video and photographs, and even a look at what Collins was doing up in the Columbia craft while his partners were on the surface.

Then there’s the return - which was not without its problems - the celebrations that came after the crew landed (about two miles off-target), and the heroes’ ticker-tape parade. This is an amazing film, meticulously and lovingly put together. It’s works as a balm for our troubled times.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.

“Apollo 11”
Directed by Todd Douglas Miller
With Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins
Rated G