The astronaut drama Countdown is a curio from both a historical and filmic standpoint. The movie, co-starring James Caan and Robert Duvall, both pre-Godfather, arrived in 1968, a year before the initial moon landing, but at a point when it was clear the United States was on the verge of launching such a mission. Hence, a semi-documentary style is imposed on a plot that posits a geopolitical space race run amok: The U.S. and the Soviet Union are portrayed as being so desperate to put boot to lunar surface first that theyre willing to leave many basic safety precautions on the launch pad. Although the results are intermittently effective, theyre also fairly generic and thats especially surprising given that the picture was helmed by Robert Altman, whod go on to become one of the most distinctive directors in Hollywood. Not yet, though: The overlapping dialogue, visceral editing and adventurous staging that would blossom in his very next feature, 1970s M*A*S*H, is in little evidence throughout Countdown, which shows what sort of a filmmaker Altman could have been rather than the kind he actually became.