Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language
Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong
Claire Foy as Janet Shearon
Corey Stoll as Buzz Aldrin
Pablo Schreiber as Jim Lovell
Jason Clarke as Ed White
Kyle Chandler as Deke Slayton
Christopher Abbott as David Scott
Patrick Fugit as Elliot See
Director: Damien Chazelle
A Biopic on the life of the legendary American Astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) from 1961-1969, on his journey to becoming the first human to walk the moon. Exploring the sacrifices and costs on the Nation and Neil himself, during one of the most dangerous missions in the history of space travel.
First Man was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. Not only is it about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon and starring such actors as Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler and Corey Stoll, but it also is directed by Damien Chazelle. I’ve loved Chazelle’s last two films (Whiplash and La La Land), and he really showed a lot of talent with them. So naturally I was excited for First Man. While it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting, First Man was really great and one of my favourite films of the year.
There’s something that people need to know going in, this is about the titular first man, but it’s not all about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, that aspect happens much later in the movie. For the most part, this movie is more about Armstrong than it is about the whole final moon landing. A lot of the movie is focussing on him testing and training to be on the moon. It also features his family life with his wife and children, and how what he does affects them as well. The reason why I mention all of this is because I think a lot of people might be going into First Man with a certain expectation (and it’s not unreasonable, the first thing you think about a Neil Armstrong is about him landing on the moon), and that could take away from their enjoyment or disappoint them a bit. I didn’t have a problem with the fact that this is what the movie is about. The movie can feel stretched out at times, and it wasn’t me being impatient waiting for the final moon landing part, it does legitimately feel long (and this is me when I’m already having an idea of what kind of movie this is) and the issue isn’t so much the length. The pacing can be a little uneven, sometimes perfectly paced in some parts, other times being a tad too slow. It’s not annoyingly slow at any point, but it does take away from the experience. The last act with the actual moon bit however, I’m pretty sure everyone will like regardless of what they think of the rest of the movie. First Man is 2 hours and 20 minutes long and you can really feel its length at times, however as I said the length wasn’t so much the problem, it was more the pacing that was the problem.
Ryan Gosling gives one of his best performances as Neil Armstrong. He does do his very familiar silent acting that movies like Drive and Blade Runner 2049 have made him known for, yet it really works for him in the role of Armstrong. He also has some notable emotional scenes that Gosling does great, and even when in some scenes where he appears stoic, you can tell at times that there are more emotions there under the surface. He’s not the only performance that really shines in this movie, Claire Foy is also a standout, playing Janet, Armstrong’s wife. She has quite a number of great scenes and was all around fantastic. Both of them really were at the top of their game. The rest of the supporting cast is also great. Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll and a bunch of others all serve their roles well and added to the movie.
It’s no surprise that Damien Chazelle’s direction is fantastic, but it is especially great when you consider how different First Man is to his previous movies, he’s really shown himself to be a talented and capable director in any genre. Some of the highlight scenes of the movie are the space/cockpits/testing scenes, all immersive and absolutely captivating and thrilling . I think First Man has some of the best scenes set in space. When it comes to these scenes, you really feel like you’re right there with the characters. The camera movements, the sounds, everything just works incredibly well. And yes, the segment where they are actually on the moon are worth the price of admission with the largest screen available alone. Also making it even better is the score by Justin Hurwitz. It goes from having moments of wonder to absolute thrilling and tense and then to some truly emotional stuff. Really I’d strongly recommend seeing First Man on the biggest screen you can find, it’ll increase your overall experience with the movie.
First Man isn’t Damien Chazelle’s best film (I still rate both Whiplash and La La Land higher) but it’s still a great movie on its own. The excellent direction mixed with the great performances results in a really good movie that although slow, is well worth seeing as soon as possible (and on the biggest screen available). With Whiplash, La La Land and now First Man, Chazelle has proven himself to have a long and exciting career ahead of him.