In 1969 when Neil Armstrong took the first footsteps on the Moon, the whole world was watching on television. That such a momentously historical event could be witnessed so conspicuously was because some modest technicians in an obscure backwater of New South Wales managed to overcome daunting local difficulties.
Rob Sitch's congenial comedy inevitably calls Ealing to mind, with the small, ordinary people taking on mighty odds, and out of chaos somehow managing to triumph. The little town of Parkes has among its sheep pastures a huge satellite dish, which happens to be the only tracking station in the southern hemisphere capable of following the Apollo mission. Sam Neill plays its chief, trying to keep his casual, well-meaning lads up to professional scratch and the starchy NASA advisor (Patrick Warburton) sweet. Tolerance is strained when one of the team forgets to charge the back-up generator, so that after a power failure all the computer data is lost.
Australian informality and 'making the best of it' mateyness is contrasted with the dynamics of American 'can-do' optimism, but between them they achieve a satisfactory result. The difference is that NASA takes the glory, while the Parkes townsfolk, because they overcame their obstacles, are forgotten. So it is fitting that this beguilingly funny movie should have been such a big hit in its homeland, and it deserves success worldwide.