Three astronauts on a NASA mission find themselves, after a malfunction, facing a life-threatening situation. Not this is not the story of Apollo 13 but the fictional flight of Ironman One as featured in Marooned, released the year before that real-life drama unfolded. Marooned is instead a fictional story that is nearly as fascinating which unfolds in a realistic way. Marooned is a fine example of the old fashioned type of disasterrescue drama that is better then most other films of the genre.
There are some nice performances to be found in the film for example. Gregory Peck gives a fine performance as Charles Keith as the director of NASA manned space flight Charles Keith, who finds himself leading the race against the clock to launch a rescue while keeping the crew in orbit alive. Then there's the crew of Ironman One stranded in orbit: commander Jim Pruett (Richard Crenna), pilot Buzz Lloyd (Gene Hackman) and science astronaut Clayton Stone (James Franciscus) who all give nice, subtle and believable performances (especially in Hackman's case thanks to a nice character arch). There's also David Janssen as astronaut Ted Dougherty and Lee Grant as Pruett's wife who both give believable performances as well. The performances help, rather subtly, to give the film a sense of reality.
The production values are probably the best things about the film. There are some fantastic sets, in particular the mission control sets for both Houston and the Cape are highly believable film set versions of the real things. That isn't to forget the spacecraft sets and props in the form of the command module (though it definitely way too big to be entirely believable), the space station (an early version on what in real-life would become the Skylab space station in the early-mid 1970's) and the astronauts maneuvering unit (which would come into real-life use in the 1980's space shuttle missions). There is also some fine cinematography which helps to give a claustrophobic feel to the command module as the film progresses. There's a fantastic use of stock footage in the form of the incredible Saturn V launch at the film's beginning (even if using a Saturn V to get into Earth orbit doesn't make much sense). All of these make for some fine production values which helps the film feel realistic.
Then there's the special effects. The special effects won and Oscar when the film was first released and at times it is easy to see why. The best special effects pieces in the film are the model shots of the space craft are fantastic pieces of work even four decades later. Where the effects tend to have issues is when the actors are in shot due to some matting issues or when lighting seems not to effect the astronauts. There's also the shots of zero-g as well which work rather well though there are numerous moments where it's noticeable how the shots were achieved. In short the effects are good for their time which work for the most part.
Last, but not least, is the script and direction. Both the script by Mayo Simon and the direction of John Sturges let the story unfold with a slow pace which, considering that this is a story with a ticking clock, seems an odd choice as one would expect a fast-paced race against time. The truth is though it isn't. Instead there is a nice building up of tension as NASA organizes the rescue effort while the astronauts air runs out and the situation becomes increasingly desperate. The result is that the film unfolds with a realistic feel to it though it lacks a fast pace so if you don't mind things unfolding slowly piece by piece you should be fine.
Marooned stands as a fine example of the disasterrescue film genre. Much of this is down to the nice and mostly subtle performances from the cast, fine sets and good special effects work (for the most part). There's also the script and the direction which let the story unfold with a realistic (if rather slow) pace. The result is a film that unfolds much more believably then many other films of the genre.
Review by Matthew Kresal from the Internet Movie Database.