‘It’s in the nature of the human. We’re required to do these things, just as salmon swim upstream.’ So says iconic space salmon Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon. Half a century on from his famous ‘small step’, this starry-eyed, cradle-to-grave doc has a go at finding out what made him tick.
There are talking-head interviews with old Air Force comrades and fellow astronauts, and insights from his sister Janet (as kids, their parents tied cowbells to them to keep track of their movements). As a visual experience, ‘Armstrong’ is nowhere near as awe-inspiring as the recent ‘Apollo 11’ – another film released to mark the half-centenary of the moon landing – though it does boast Harrison Ford’s laconic narration of Armstrong’s lyrical diaries as a USP.
But Ford also serves as a reminder that Armstrong was no magnetic Han Solo type. From his upbringing in the Ohio boondocks to his air-ace exploits during the Korean War to his scientific skillset at Nasa, he’s a straight arrow who wore his heroism at zero gravity. ‘Armstrong’ fails to fill that charisma gap by delving into the tougher stuff around the death of his daughter Karen (the subject of Damien Chazelle’s underrated ‘First Man’) and the end of his marriage. Both, frustratingly, are zipped past. It’s all watchable enough but hardly a giant leap for documentary making.