The year is 1969, and Neil Armstrong is getting ready to walk on the moon. Meanwhile, in the middle of a sheep paddock in Parkes in New South Wales, Australia, Cliff Buxton, played by Sam Neil (The Hunt for Red October, Jurassic Park), leads a team in charge of one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most significant radio telescope dishes.
They are working with NASA to ensure television transmission of the moon landing, in case the central receiver in California malfunctions.
The film is full of quirky town characters, including Mayor Bob McIntyre and his wife Maisie, their outspoken daughter, and a Barney fife-type security guard. The town prepares for the arrival of the prime minister and the U.S. ambassador (played by John McMartin, whom you may remember from day one: “All The President’s Men”) as the launch date gets closer.
“Failure is never quite so frightening as regret.”
-Sam Neil as Cliff Buxton, “The Dish”
The team endures harrowing winds, unexpected power failure, and a multitude of other unfortunate events as Apollo 11 is headed for the moon. “The Dish” keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though we all know that Neil and his team safely landed on the moon and returned home.
“The Dish” has a humorous tone under such critical circumstances. The film contains rich characters and memorable supporting characters. The Australian born director, Rob Sitch (The Castle), does a superb job making you, as the viewer, feel as though you are apart of the small, close-knit community of Parkes. The warmth and welcoming hospitality of the entire town is most notable. The music adds to the combination of light-heartedness in the middle of one of the most important events in modern history. The story includes forgiveness, team-work, and if you work together, it is possible to accomplish the impossible. It is a good, clean film that makes you feel good about the world in the end.
This highly entertaining film reminds us to appreciate every “minor” character in our life, no matter how quirky. As film critic Roger Ebert stated, “The Dish” has affection for every one of its characters, forgives them their trespasses, understands their ambitions, doesn’t mock them and is very funny.”
“The Dish” reminds the world of the critical role Australia played in 500 million people being able to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon; however, the film is “loosely” based on historical facts. Parkes helped in the success of the transmission but was not as vital as “The Dish” suggests.
The humor, the characters, and the small slice of modern history are just a few highlights that make this film one of my favorites. Watch it and let me know what you think.