Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Written by: Josh Singer
Based on the book by: James R. Hansen
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Ethan Embry and Lukas Haas
Run Time: 2h 21min
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
3 ½ Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
‘First Man’ focuses on the beginnings of Nasa and invests most of its two hours and twenty minutes to Neil Armstrong, the first man to ever set foot on the moon. It’s captured beautifully with an incredibly exciting screenplay by Josh Singer, who wrote ‘The Post,’ ‘Spotlight’ and twenty-six episodes of ‘The West Wing,’ that’s filled with motivation, trepidation, elation and plenty of heartaches. If you want to feel what Neil Armstrong felt as he flew his jet across the sky and if you want to experience the inside of a space capsule with him, as well, see this movie at the theatre but if you can, get to an IMAX theatre quickly for an enhanced adventure into space.
Director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash), obviously no novice when it comes to music and tone, had a sound department of thirty people working overtime for this one! The metal of the rocket the astronauts are jammed into before it takes off and after speaks to them. It moans and groans, shrieks and creaks, articulating its disapproval of what is being asked of it, setting your nerves on edge before you’re anywhere near the moon. Chazelle manages to make us see and feel the vibrations and each bump, jolt, quiver and jerk they are going through as they train for their mission and as they’re launched into orbit. Uncertainty is a big part of the film which is puzzling because we all know how it turns out but that’s how beautifully structured the film is and how strong the characters are. It’s so believable that even YOU aren’t sure of what’s next for them.
Though Armstrong and other astronauts were in happy marriages, Chazelle was able to catch and target in on their lives at home during the 1960’s with the Apollo missions going on. As they watched friends burn up or blow up, they tried not to show it but were a bundle of nerves inside. Armstrong kept himself at a safe distance from his wife Janet, played quite skillfully by Claire Foy. They lose a child, Karen, which Neil never seems to recover but as they continue to have more children, he pulls away emotionally, saving it for the missions, and she remains strong for their family. She understood he had to direct his attention on surviving but wasn’t about to let him kill what they had. The scene between the two of them toward the end of the film strengthens an already powerful film and cements this as one of the best movies of the year. That said, however, it’s no ‘Whiplash,’ which is a more determined Chazelle film, but this is still intense and a must-see this weekend. Don’t wait to watch it at home. The exceptional photography and superb score deserve to be seen and heard properly.