I had the pleasure last night of attending a press screening of Damien Chazelle’s new Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man. So let me give you my non-spoiler review…

A little background first: As someone who’s been a lifelong supporter and aficionado of the space program, I’ve seen every film there is on the subject, from Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff to the most obscure documentary. I’ve listened to most of the CAPCOM recordings, I have DVDs and Blu-rays containing almost every foot of archival footage shot by NASA and the astronauts during their missions. I’ve been to NASA facilities, I’ve seen launches, and I’m fortunate enough to even know a few astronauts. It’s with that lifetime of experience that I can say this: First Man is the single most realistic dramatic film about the subject yet made.

The level of detail exceeds even Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 and by a good measure. In Howard’s film, great as it is, there are a couple of things that just aren’t quite right. For example, the mission patch plaques on the wall of Mission Control are painted versions of the souvenir patches sold to the public, not the actual patches the astronauts wore. The NASA emblems on characters’ flight suits are modern, not period accurate. They’re little things, sure, but for the knowledgable, they can throw you out of the moment. But Chazelle and his team nail all of those little details, right down to the tiniest stitch. It’s as if First Man was actually shot in the 1960s, a level of verisimilitude and immersion that’s rare, even for a film of this type. [Read on here...]

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