‘ONE small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Immortal words which ring in the ears of this ambitiously scaled retelling of arguably mankind’s most lofty achievement.

Damien Chazelle follows up his one-two punch of music-permeated tales of dreaming big, Whiplash and La La Land, with a film about perhaps the biggest dream of all – the Nasa mission to put a man on the moon.

Chazelle teams back up with his La La Land star Ryan Gosling, who plays astronaut Neil Armstrong. Using James R Hansen’s non-fiction book First Man: The Life Of Neil A Armstrong as a basis, we first meet Armstrong in 1961 when he’s a test pilot whose latest escapade among the clouds sends him on a bumpy trajectory back to Earth.

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Straight away, we’re put right there in the cockpit, uncomfortably up-close-and-personal to Armstrong as he tries to maintain control. It feels like a dizzying primer for the world-famous mission to come.

The film then paints, from the first to the last year of the tumultuous 1960s, an at once epic and intimate portrait of a determined, extremely private man’s home life with his eternally supportive wife Janet (Claire Foy) and young children colliding with the sacrifices needed to attain a seemingly impossible level of greatness.

Importantly, the domestic drama rings true, lending the intricacies and careful calculations of the training and the eventual mission itself a crucial emotional backbone.

“We need to fail down here so we don’t fail up there,” Armstrong states bluntly at one point to his Nasa colleagues. They include fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), Jim Lovell (Pablo Schreiber, previously portrayed by Tom Hanks in Apollo 13) and leader Deke Slayton (Kyle Chandler), all of whom are aiming to win the space race against the Soviet Union.

Vitally, the family drama also gives Armstrong a sense of purpose on the ground to return safely, balancing the tenacity he has in looking towards the stars. You feel the dramatic weight of his son asking if he’s going to come back because it reinforces Armstrong as a human being first and foremost.

Gosling plays him with compelling restraint and stoicism, avoiding the caricaturism that so often comes with the portrayal of a famous historical figure to present a captivating portrait of the inner turmoil bubbling underneath a controlled demeanour. Foy is also excellent, nearly running away with the film with a highlight scene in which, when something drastically doesn’t go to plan during training, she chastises the Nasa crew for being “a bunch of boys” who “don’t have anything under control”.

We know the Apollo 11 mission was successful and that the astronauts got back home safely.

But as gargantuan as the destination is, it’s the journey that makes it and, importantly, it’s not a film that rushes things along – the mission to the moon doesn’t occur until well into the narrative, although it is thrillingly depicted when it comes.

The power of the film lies in Chazelle’s fastidious technical craft and building tension, anticipation and collective willingness for Armstrong and his colleagues both in the spaceship and back at mission control to achieve that success.

To watch mankind’s giant leap being taken, accompanied by some stunning sound design and Justin Hurwitz’s determined-sounding score, is a real sight to behold when it’s writ large with the such a fitting sense of gusto.

Crucially the film presents the means to that end with triumphant, unadorned personal sentiment to make it feel like it all matters.