The latest film from acclaimed director Damien Chazzelle. Chazzelle is the director who made both Whiplash and La La Land, both amazing films. Knowing he was behind this project was all I needed to know to be interested. I didn’t watch any trailers before seeing it, and I did not read any reviews. All I knew about it is that it was about Neil Armstrong and that Ryan Gosling was in the lead role.
It was a bit weird to see Chazzelle do something so very different than his previous two movies. Though I suppose despite both La La Land and Whiplash being about Jazz, that they were also still very different movies with drastically different tones. But it did not concern me that he was stepping out of his comfort zone because based on his previous films it was clear he was just a great director regardless of the story he is telling.
So did it live up to his other films? Sure. I still prefer Whiplash and La La Land, but that has nothing to do with this movie, that is only because those movies are that good. I have very little negative to say about this movie. The acting was great with no noticeable weak links. I really appreciate that the movie was character focused and not event focused. It would be so easy for this movie to be patriotic porn that just focuses on how great America is for landing on the moon, but that stuff was subtext. Yes, the movie is based around the moon landing, but the moon landing is not the subject of the movie. Armstrong is the subject of the movie.
They also didnt drown us in flashy CGI. The CGI was perfect because they held back, and avoided making it a spectacle. Beautiful CGI is nice, but sometimes it is better to hold back and let the characters shine. The CGI was perfect, everything felt real without being distractingly flashy. Some people may disagree and say a movie about landing on the moon should be all spectacle, but I for one am happy they held back. There are enough movies like this that use flashy CGI as a crutch because they can’t tell an interesting story about the characters. If you want an epic space story there are so many other options. You can go watch Gravity, Interstellar, Apollo 13, Armageddon, etc. But there have not been very many stories like this that tell of how terrifying it must be to prepare for this type of mission. The trauma it could put on someone and their family. it is a deeply personal story and it works so well.
I love that for the takeoff Chazzelle chose to go with a first person shot. To really put us into his mind during this terrifying yet the exhilarating experience of blasting into space. The nuance and subtlety at play here are masterful. It isn’t just in the CGI and storytelling, across the board Chazelle kept this amazing story of a man literally leaving the ground, grounded. It is the camera work, the acting, everything feels so real. Biopics are always better when they avoid falling into hero worship, and Chazzelle does that.
I don’t know if I have any real critiques. The score could be better. It isn’t bad, but it maybe doesn’t do the film justice. But that might be it. Most of the film is exceptional, and I may be ready to say it is the best movie I have seen this year so far. Chazzelle was teased with the Best Picture two years ago when someone mistakenly said La La Land won, but he should have another chance at the next Oscars to take home that hardware.