‘First Man’ – Review: One Giant Leap For Mankind

Throughout the history of mankind, we’ve always found new challenges and set goals. Whether it was to explore uncharted parts of the world or even the depths of the oceans, we’ve never quit researching. But the one thing the caught the world’s attention was lunar landing. One of (if not the biggest) mysteries out there is our understanding of space. Then, in July of 1969, the impossible happened: we landed on the moon.

We’ve learned about the Apollo 11 mission in school and seen many documentaries and feature films regarding this impossible mission, but does Whiplash director Damien Chazelle provide anything new?

Actors Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, Lukas Haas as Mike Collins, and Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

For a film to tell a story we’ve heard and seen many times before, Damien Chazelle took a unique approach and decided to tell a story about things much deeper than the mission itself. This film focuses strongly on the risks and the sacrifice the men and families had to endure so that Apollo 11 could happen. While we ultimately know that Neil Armstrong will be on the moon some time by the end of the film, the experience is seeing what had to be done and the preparation and what trials had to take place over the course of eight years.

The visual effects in this film are phenomenal and there were legitimate moments where you couldn’t tell what was CGI and what wasn’t. Every launch sequence in this film is riveting and will take your breath away as it makes you feel like you’re there in the shuttle with the rest of the crew. The way Damien Chazelle adds a claustrophobic feel multiple times in this film really helps to immerse yourself in the scene. Another thing Chazelle did well in this film as he made it feel dated and like it was from the ’60s. The tone was consistent throughout and ended up feeling authentic.

Actress Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Damien Chazelle treats this film as a character study and relies on the personal perspective of Neil Armstrong in which (once again) Ryan Gosling does an impeccable job at bringing those things to fruition. Claire Foy, who plays Janet (Armstrong’s wife) truly brings out some of the things you don’t see in typical space-adventure movies. While Gosling and Foy have good chemistry with one another, every time Foy is on-screen, she steals the show.

As great as the cast is in First Man, it’s also one of the film’s weakest points. Gosling plays Armstrong as this character who seems to be very affectless. We see early in the film that he does have emotion in which Gosling is able to bring out, but it seems like Chazelle could have had more to do with Neil as a character. One way that may have changed this a bit would be to trim the film down. The run-time is 2 hours and 22 minutes and by the time you’re two-thirds within the film, you start to feel it.

First Man: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

A lot of people may have been looking for a giant blockbuster but that’s not what this film is. As a fan of Chazelle’s previous work with Whiplash and La La Land, this is something that he does best in and it’s what works for his craft. Some people might find this film quite long, but it’s still a recommended movie, especially if you’re a fan of Gosling. The launch sequences are breathtaking and the visuals are top notch. This film is sure to receive Oscar buzz including best picture, best visual effects, and best-supporting actress.

‘First Man’ = 3.6/5


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