Damien Chazelle's 4th feature is a biopic charting Neil Armstrong's passage from NACA test pilot to lunar pioneer. The film splits its time between [spoilers] the often tragic advance of the Space Race, and Armstrong's sometimes stoic response to the personal and political events taking place around him. For that reason, Ryan Gosling is well-cast in the lead role, yet also has one or two opportunities for more expressive reactions, whilst Claire Foy cements herself as one of the leading actors of the moment.
Once again, Chazelle serves up a very definite vision, seamlessly melding sound with picture. Where, in Whiplash, the cut mirrored the impressionistic jazz movements and, in La La Land, the camera sashayed along with the performances, here the framing is tight and every rivet (mechanical or emotional) is explored in rude close up. At the same time, the sound design underscores the fragility of what is at stake, on both a technical and, more importantly, human level.