Review: First Man

The journey to bring man to the moon is documented in First Man. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) is an aeronautical engineer, who joins the NASA space program to bring a man to the moon. With his worried wife Janet (Claire Foy) home to care for his family, Armstrong joins fellow astronauts Ed White (Jason Clarke), Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), and others on a multiyear journey to try and make it to the moon before the Soviets.

Damien Chazelle follows up his Best Director Oscar win for La La Land with a biopic about Neil Armstrong and his journey to become the first man on the moon. The story kicks off in 1961, with Armstrong participating in the initial tests to launch a man into orbit. Losing his daughter to cancer, Armstrong becomes somewhat disconnected from his family, as he joins Project Gemini, which will develop the docking technology required for the Apollo missions. Along the way, there are advances by the Soviets, malfunctions of equipment, and a number of accidents resulting in the deaths of Armstrong’s fellow Astronauts.

At a running time of 2h21m, First Man spends more time on the journey to get to the moon, than the actual trip itself. Damien Chazelle shot the bulk of the film on 16mm, which gives the story a very grainy and period feel. The film only really documents the space missions Neil Armstrong himself participated in, such as the initial orbit tests, the Gemini 8 docking mission, and finally the Apollo 11 trip to the moon.

The film’s climatic scenes on the lunar surface were shot with IMAX cameras and it is definitely quite visually impressive seeing the aspect ratio expand, as Neil Armstrong prepares to exit the capsule. The film also features a great use of sound, as well as the score by Justin Hurwitz, which builds up to an intense crescendo during the trip to the moon.

Ultimately, First Man is a film that is more about the man than the journey itself. The relationship that Neil Armstrong has with his wife Janet is at the core of the drama of the story, despite the fact that Claire Foy has the thankless job of playing a character, who is primarily there to stay home and worry about her husband.

I have to admit that First Man is most worth seeing for the IMAX-formatted climax, however it is still a decent drama about bringing a man to the moon.

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Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).