First Man (2018)
“First Man” stars Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Shea Whigham, and Christopher Abbott. Released on October 12, 2018, the film depicts the events leading up to the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.
The film is directed by Damien Chazelle, who is mostly known for directing “Whiplash” and “La La Land”. It is based on the 2005 book, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, by James R. Hansen. One of the greatest and most dangerous achievements in history was sending the first few humans to the moon, including Neil Armstrong. This groundbreaking event has been retold time and again via history books and film, and now it’s being retold once again, but this time, it’ll be from the point of view of Armstrong himself. Damien Chazelle has proven to be one of the most talented directors of the decade after leading his film, “La La Land”, to Oscar glory a couple of years ago. Now he was given the task to bring this challenging journey to life from a personal perspective. That task seemed to be working quite well in terms of strong reviews. Now that I got the chance to experience it for myself, does it live up to what I expected? For this review, I will not mention the controversy surrounding the absence of a scene where the American flag was planted on the moon because I found it to be a pointless argument that mustn’t be brought up ever again.
Many of the biopics I’ve seen in the past explore the fact that the popular icons we know and respect are just as human as the rest of us. Despite their memorable and daring accomplishments, these people have their own personal issues and feelings that we haven’t seen onscreen before, making us appreciate them even more. “First Man” is no exception. While the dramatic side of Neil Armstrong is far from perfect, the experience of witnessing this impossible mission is not only engaging and brilliant on a technical scale, but also intelligent and thoughtful on a storytelling scale. Ryan Gosling impressed me once again with his soothing and determined performance as Neil Armstrong. Whether or not he’ll get some award nominations for his role is anyone’s guess, but from what I saw, it’s possible that he might win the Academy over again this year like he did with “La La Land” two years ago. Claire Foy was also terrific as Neil’s supportive, yet concerning, wife, Janet. Like Lady Gaga from “A Star Is Born”, Foy's performance is something that I think should get recognized by the Academy. What Chazelle did well in his storytelling is that he understands how challenging and imperfect an astronaut’s life is, especially during a time like this. It is the uncertainty that made us question whether or not these astronauts will make it back home in one piece. This strategy provided plenty of engrossing and intense moments that were both stylish and grounded when it comes to Chazelle’s direction. The technical achievements that were displayed in “First Man” were the main reasons why it’s worth watching on the biggest screen possible with the best sound system. From the Gemini 8 mission to the moon landing scene in the third act, the film’s sequences did wonders in making the audience feel like they’re part of the experience themselves due to its cinematography and sound design. If I have to choose which sequence is my favorite, I would say it’s a two-way tie between the Gemini 8 sequence and the moon landing sequence. I also enjoyed Justin Hurwitz’s musical score that played during some of the drama scenes.
Overall, “First Man” is a remarkable and appealing space-related experience that never lost sight at exploring the personal side of Neil Armstrong. Thanks to the strong performances from the main actors, Chazelle’s impressive direction, and the film’s accurate sound design, this space drama was indeed out of this world (no pun intended). This is also another film that made me appreciate Chazelle’s talent as a director even more, and I hope his next film is just as good, if not, better than this one. If you like Ryan Gosling and space dramas in general, I would highly recommend this one to you.
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