First Man is based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, and explores the years leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 through the prism of the astronauts, including Armstrong, Ed White (Jason Clarke), Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) and Elliot See (Patrick Fugit), and their wives, including Janet Armstrong (Claire Foy), Pat White (Olivia Hamilton) and Marilyn See (Kris Swanberg).
First Man is a great space adventure, but it is equally a touching and, at times, heartbreaking exploration of love and loss. The chemistry between Gosling and his on-screen co-star Claire Foy - better known to the curtseying public as Queen Elizabeth II from the critically exalted television drama The Crown - is profound. So, too, is the chemistry between Gosling and his director Damien Chazelle. A right proper bromance, the British papers might say.
First Man is properly transporting. Whether it is in the intense, almost overpowering roar of the lunar launches, in which Chazelle takes the audience into the improbable madness of sending a human crew to space in a pin-prick sized capsule stuck on the top of a giant firecracker which has been aimed skyward.
But there is also, in the vastness of space, a tenderness to Chazelle's storytelling, which taps both the insignificance of our own tiny planet in the context of the greater universe, and also the magnificence of people who dreamed of taking humankind to another world.