Man on a Mission: Film Review

Man on a Mission Still- H 2012
First Run Features

Man on a Mission Still- H 2012

This documentary about a private citizen’s journey into space plays like the most expensive home movie ever made.

Mike Woolf's documentary follows a citizen's journey to travel into space.

Presumably intended as an inspiring portrait of a private individual daring to live his dream of traveling in space, Man on a Mission instead comes across as a cautionary tale about having too much time and money on your hands. Mike Woolf’s documentary, subtitled Richard Garriott’s Road to the Stars, could effectively turn the most rabid right-winger into a devout socialist.

Garriott, known to his followers by his alter-ego “Lord British,” made his considerable fortune designing interactive computer games, including the mega-selling, medieval fantasy Ultima series. The son of a scientist/astronaut who flew several missions in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the eccentric entrepreneur -- his house in Austin, dubbed “Brittania Manor,” has to be seen to be believed -- Garriott had wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps but an eye condition prevented him from a NASA career.

So what else was a private citizen to do but spend $30 million dollars of his own money to buy himself a spot aboard a 12-day, 2008 Russian Soyuz mission. Naturally, this required extensive, yearlong training that is well documented here, including having to learn Russian. The film also includes extensive footage of the space flight itself, although it necessarily pales in comparison to the endless, similarly themed IMAX documentaries of recent years.

“Richard spends his money better his money better than anybody,” one of his friends gushes to the camera. But while Garriott did succeed in his goal, becoming both the sixth private citizen and the first son of an astronaut to go to space, that’s a highly debatable point.

Opens Jan. 13 (First Run Features)
Director: Mike Woolf
Executive producer: Brady Dial
Director of photography: Andrew Yates
Editor: Catie Cacci
Music: Brian Satterwhite, John Constant
Not rated, 83 min.