MATTHEW BOND FILM OF THE WEEK

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Cert: 12A 2hrs 21mins

T★★★★★slipped the surly he line ‘Oh, have bonds of Earth’ may have been writ­ten by the An­glo-Amer­i­can Spit­fire pi­lot and poet John Gille­spie Magee Jr, to de­scribe the sheer un­bri­dled joy of high­alti­tude flight, but it was made fa­mous by Pres­i­dent Rea­gan, when he used it in his trib­ute to the as­tro­nauts killed in the Chal­lenger space shut­tle disas­ter.

It comes up in Damien Chazelle’s stun­ning new film First Man too, but I found my­self think­ing of it long be­fore it ac­tu­ally ar­rived. Be­cause those surly bonds don’t get much surlier than they are here.

Now I love a good space film, but the thrilling tri­umph of this one is that it puts you right there in the cock­pit, along­side Neil Arm­strong – first as he flies the rick­ety X-15 rocket plane, then the or­bit­ing space cap­sules of the Gemini pro­gramme and, fi­nally, on Apollo 11, the mis­sion that would pro­pel him into his­tory as the first man to stand on the Moon.

You feel ev­ery bump and vi­bra­tion, are deaf­ened by the noise, and gen­er­ally mar­vel at the sheer brute power re­quired for those surly bonds to be slipped.

And then fi­nally, just when you’re be­gin­ning to won­der 18 I how much more of this dis­ori­en­tat­ing, hori­zon-swing­ing pun­ish­ment you can take, the vi­bra­tions stop, the noise ceases and some­thing small – nor­mally a pen – slowly floats past to in­di­cate that weight­less­ness has been achieved. They are ab­so­lutely stun­ning se­quences and if the film doesn’t get ma­jor award nom­i­na­tions for its cin­e­matog­ra­phy (Li­nus Sand­gren’s ki­netic cam­er­a­work is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive), edit­ing and sound de­sign, I shall be as­ton­ished. Thank­fully, what hap­pens on the ground is top-notch too, as you would ex­pect from the Os­car­win­ning Chazelle, who made both La La Land and Whiplash, and a cast led by Ryan Gosling and The Crown star Claire Foy.

Gosling plays Arm­strong, who by the time the film be­gins in 1961 was al­ready a vet­eran of the Korean War and a Navy flyer and had be­come a civil­ian test pi­lot. But while by day he flew the X-15 to the very edge of space, by night he re­searched the ag­gres­sive tu­mour that was soon to claim the life of his two-yearold daugh­ter, Karen. This loss, the film con­vinc­ingly sug­gests, would be a defin­ing mo­ment in Arm­strong’s ex­tra­or­di­nary life.

Gosling, cur­rently Hol­ly­wood’s

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