“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
First Man stars Ryan Gosling as the notable first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong. The film which tells of Armstrong’s trials and tribulations during the space race of the 1960s, does a stunning job providing a visually stunning experience to watch on screen. As a lover of all things space and space travel, I looked forward to this movie probably more than any other movie of 2018. Director Damien Chazelle, most notably known for directing films such as Whiplash and La La Land, takes a break from the music genre to bring us a pure dramatic story of this heroic figure in American history. And although Gosling’s portrayal of the achieved astronaut can come across as a bit of a stick in the mud, or rather stoned face throughout the movie, this portrayal is one that may be the most honest. Thus, completely countering all other ideas of Armstrong in other notable films. Here is a film for where a silver platter is set with both story, actors, and music, but Chazelle’s take does not exceed many other space travel films that have come before.
Gosling whose portrayal of Armstrong may come under some scrutiny, does an incredible job. Most people know a charismatic and heart-warming Armstrong. An Armstrong most known to help his friends in a time of need. I’m mostly referencing the scenes in Apollo 13. But Gosling doesn’t portray Armstrong, as what we’re now finding out, as a fake version that so many others have taken. First Man strips away the smiles and picture perfect family, to reveal a darker, quieter, and more determined side to the hero. Some have said that it is for this reason that they can’t find an interest or love for this film. But once you see First Man, Chazelle does a wonderful job of tearing away the fake, but not tearing away the man. You realize that there was no need to see this man breakdown, cry, or scream on screen. You automatically feel the emotion and the struggle without having to be told or shown what to think. This is what I believe really lifts First Man to become a truly beautiful film. Gosling along with co-stars Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Corey Stoll and Kyle Chandler, all lend their supreme acting talents to this story. Foy, who plays Armstrong’s wife, Janet, takes away the stereotypical look of a woman fearful of waiting for her husband to return. When the male dominating characters in the film push her into a corner, she pushes right back. Foy does an unbelievable job in her performance as Janet, truly exhibiting her talents as she broadens herself from TV to dramatic films. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t receive an Oscar nomination.
First Man’s greatness comes purely from the visual effects that this film has. If you have the opportunity, I would suggest watching this film in IMAX, because the moon landing alone will have you salivating due to such beauty onscreen. Technically, this film has everything going for it. Musically, this film has everything going for it. And just as a little side note, I cannot stop listening to the track Multi-Axis Trainer. For some reason it just gets me pumped. But good elements aside, First Man lacks in certain areas that really prevent this film from becoming a great.
Before I get blasted by those who believe this film is an A+++++, I want to say that in no way do I think this is a bad film. Nor would I ever hinder someone from seeing this film, because as we all know, discouraging someone from seeing this film would be a disservice. But there were moments, especially in the overall narrative and acting, that weren’t cohesive to the film. There were a few scenes that didn’t add much story, and in this case, chopped up the overall arch of the film. I might be nitpicking at this point, but I truly believe that the overall story did not completely gel together. Therefore, making the story a bit lackluster in quality.
First Man is going to be a tough movie to sell to American audiences. Although the screenplay is adapted from James R. Hansen’s official Neil Armstrong biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, it’s going to be hard to see a prominent American figure with a quiet and headstrong personality. But if that, or other political reasons, has you hesitating to see this film, I say don’t hesitate any longer. First Man is a beautiful and eye opening look at the beginnings of space travel and the toll it took on, not only Armstrong, but so many other brave souls who risked their lives so we could be a little bit closer to touching the stars.
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Corey Stoll, and Kyle Chandler