“First Man” was directed by Damien Chazelle and stars Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke and Corey Stoll. The film is based on the 2005 novel by James R. Hansen and is about Neil Armstrong, and the eight years building up to him becoming the first person to ever walk on the moon.
This has Chazelle, this has Gosling, this has a very interesting premise and this had a trailer that looked fantastic. Yeah, I was excited to see just how great this movie could be.
This is technically one of the best films, if not the best, that will come out in 2018. I have never heard sound editing or mixing like “First Man” delivers on, and it makes the full experience of the atmosphere tests and eventual trip to the moon something visceral and intense in a way that completely blew me away.
Working well with these loud, in-your-face bits of sound is the cinematography by Linus Sandgren. Sandgren’s shots can be intense at the moments they were needed, specifically with the shaking inside the rocket during takeoffs and flights. But there were also plenty of absolutely stunning moments of beauty, especially whenever Armstrong found his way off the planet.
The performances are also great from everyone, with Gosling nailing it as the lead. As Armstrong, Gosling is very restrained and still finds ways to add emotion to the character in very smart ways as to not lose what made Armstrong what he was.
Foy was a standout as his wife, Janet, easily being the best part of the family aspect of the film. Foy gives the movie a great dynamic outside of everything involving getting to the moon, and her inner conflicts, as well as her moments with Gosling, really help add another layer of emotion to the movie.
Whenever the movie lifts off the ground, it is a masterpiece in everything filmmaking. Whether it be a combination of sound editing and Sangren’s camerawork, or Justin Hurwitz’s phenomenal score, the movie is never more exciting than in space. The opening scene, a test on the Gemini 8 and of course the Apollo 11 scene all made for some of the best moments in a movie this year, and they were brilliantly executed throughout by Chazelle.
Everything and anything involving space travel is perfection, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. However, there are some pieces of Armstrong’s time with his family and friends that dragged a little long, and felt a bit redundant. That’s not to say it’s all bad, there are a handful of scenes that are terrific outside of his work, but for a 141-minute film, I think some of this could have been cut.
Only a minor detail, but I sometimes lost how much time jumped from scene to scene, and felt myself having to play some catch up to get it. There are plenty of time cards to assist, but I think the transitions between time breaks could have been smoother.
“First Man” is yet another fantastic film to add to Chazelle’s resume. Is it as perfect as either “Whiplash” or “La La Land”? I can’t say that it is. But this film shows how masterfully this director can craft a film. There are plenty of small details that I noticed throughout that were so smart and so subtle that only Chazelle would do, and the terrific cast and crew only helped to visualize everything that Chazelle can make. “First Man” is the type of movie that deserves an IMAX release, and is truly a spectacle to behold all the way through.
What did you think of “First Man”? Comment below with your thoughts.