It's a beautiful, haunting meditation on loss, sacrifice, science, camaraderie, exploration, family, and love of country. And perhaps in that order?
It's a bit emotionally inaccessible, like Tree of Life, though equally visually stunning. Very atmospheric and ambient, with immersive 35mm cinematography that feels gritty, grainy, sometimes frenetic, and perfectly imperfect, almost like 8mm.
There are a number of scenes that roar, thunder, and vibrate your sternum like horse hooves coming from the distance. These will bring you, alternatingly, to tears or your feet. Man, I was proud of those boys.
My only nit is the portrayal of Neil Armstrong's interior emotional life. I have to assume that Gosling and Chazelle give Armstrong a fair shake here (he was notoriously humble, private, quiet, and all but vanished after 1969), but his primary strengths—discipline, focus, determination, cool-headedness—also keep him just out of reach. I wanted desperately to get inside his head and heart, but like his children and wife, I struggled a bit to do so.
We see, painfully, the seeds of so much personal loss and how they spring-up, blossoming into a full-blown difficult marriage, one that we know ended prematurely. My desire throughout was to run up to Armstrong and give him a big ol' bear hug, but, of course, that would never do.