It’s an interesting historical story. There’s great actors giving strong performances. But it’s just so by-the-numbers. I enjoyed it, but these sort of Oscar-season biopics are so similar that I feel it’s hard to recommend them to anyone without any sort of vested interest in the subject matter or the actors.
At least the subject matter is interesting, and the actors are good. Most of them anyway. The three leads (Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe) are great, Kevin Costner and Mahershala Ali are reliably strong, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons are a bit dicey.
All the technical elements of the film are what you’d expect, very competent but nothing special. That goes for pretty much the whole movie really. It’s well-made, I had a good time watching it, but there’s just nothing that really sticks. I enjoyed learning about this historical detail and the lives of these people, although I had a difficult time hooking into some of the motivations of the film. Why should I have any investment in America getting to space sooner than the Soviets? I can see why Americans would, but this film was released worldwide. I had investment in the characters themselves, but none in that broad American motive that drove them. I’ve always found American jingoism about the “space race” confusing – the Soviets quite literally won it, whatever the Americans claim. The Soviets got to “space” first, with Sputnik 1. The Soviets got humans to space first, with Yuri Gagarin, as the movie covers. The Soviets got to the moon first, with Luna 2. The Americans got human beings to the moon first, sure, but that’s a pretty specific first, and not depicted in the film anyway.
Anyways, it’s an extraordinarily average film, for better or worse. I give it two and a half redacted statements, and a crowbar.