Once the human race took to the sky we really took to the sky we really took to the sky. In only around sixty years we had gone from piloting planes throughout our atmosphere to piloting shuttles into outer space. We are amazing. Moving on to interplanetary travel will take longer, but maybe sooner than we think.
First Man is the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man to step foot on the Moon. Ryan Gosling plays Armstrong as he tests rockets in the beginning, and from there becoming the top astronaut at NASA. Armstrong’s story is not just about his journey with NASA to the Moon. It is just as much about his personal life. Armstrong’s daughter dies at the start from a tumor at a young age. This death follows Armstrong throughout the film. It’s not something he can talk to with others. It isolates him from his family and social life. Armstrong’s journey to the Moon becomes more than a feat of humankind, but also a personal quest for him to let go of his daughter’s death. The trip to the Moon first involved many test flights with a number of them being disastrous and fatal. It’s quite a harrowing tale seeing the lives that were affected and the money spent to get humankind on the Moon.
Armstrong’s wife, Janet, played by Claire Foy shows us the stress and personal story from her side too. Janet sees NASA as a fresh start to their lives after the loss of their daughter. At first, the family community around NASA is blissful to her. This changes when the other wives lose their husbands to test flights. At this point, fame doesn’t become worth it. Janet must watch her husband come back more emotionally broken as his friends die and he is moved up the line in their place. One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Janet orders Neil to tell their sons that he may not come back. Easily one of the most powerful scenes of the year. It’s such a simple scene that makes the recluseness of Neil be forced out. Janet’s story is just as exciting as Neil’s, and Claire Foy will get an Oscar Nomination for her performance that cannot be understated. Seeing through both of their eyes, these separate personal journeys both in similarity and differences come to a breathless final scene is worth the price of admission.
First Man is a beautiful looking movie. You get a feel as if you were in the cockpit every time. The sound and the lack of it make you feel the anxiety and stress these astronauts would have felt at the time. When things go wrong, you want to remind yourself that you are still sitting in the comfort of the movie theater and not strapped to rockets with no hope of turning around. First Man is not for everyone and is being reviewed as such. Damien Chazelle is very deliberate in what he is trying to convey, and for me, it works. This film is entirely different tonally to Whiplash and La La Land. I think Chazelle has proven with three films that he is one of the most daring and brilliant directors in Hollywood today. His work will already be inspiring the next generation of filmmakers.
I highly recommend that you see First Man if you are even slightly interested in one of history’s greatest achievements.