Published on October 12th, 2018 | by Dan Nicholls0
The director of Whiplash and La La Land, Damiel Chazelle, reteams with Ryan Gosling for First Man, the engrossing story of man’s first moon landing.
Fresh off their hit La La Land, Ryan Gosling and director Damien Chazelle have swiftly reunited to bring mankind’s reach for the moon to life. First Man puts you right in the cockpit and subjectively in the thick of it. You get caught up in the mission as much as the characters do, and danger is made to feel as imminent and real as possible. It’s a technical marvel filled with committed performances both small and large that delivers audiences to an amazing destination.
Stoic and silent Neil Armstrong is plagued by setbacks as a pilot in the air and with his family life at home. After the passing of their daughter Karen, Neil and his wife Janet (Claire Foy) are forlorn and despondent until a fresh start arrives in the form of an assignment in Houston at NASA. As history has already recorded, this job is more than just a simple gig to pay the bills; Neil is set on a course with destiny that will take him (and, in thrilling detail, us) to the moon.
Every single technical aspect of the film is completely stellar. The production design, visual effects, costumes – everything is immaculate and allows us to get wholly immersed in this world. Ryan Gosling continues his hot streak as one of the finest young actors out there and Claire Foy absolutely commands the screen. We feel like we are right there with the characters every step of the way and first-person perspectives suck you into the experience like Gravity did.
If there are nitpicks to be had, it’s that director Damien Chazelle is more interested in the mission than the man. The struggles of the Armstrong family are omnipresent but catharsis doesn’t fully arrive for the domestic storylines. The journey to Apollo 11 is fascinating and engrossing enough that those slight emotional quibbles do not sink the ship and the young filmmaker’s obsession and scrutiny are felt throughout. His shortsightedness of human psychology and character development were visible in La La Land but from a technical standpoint he has pushed himself to new heights.
Neil Armstrong did touch down on the moon in 1969 – that shouldn’t be a spoiler. The film sets its sights just as high and ever so slightly misses a bullseye. Landing among the stars is nothing to sneeze at and First Man is a visceral adventure best experienced on the big screen.