It seems almost baffling that Neil Armstrong’s account of being the first man on the moon hasn’t been told prior to Damien Chazelle‘s First Man. Clearly an intimidating figure but still reserved, sensitive and aloof enough to not be placed upon a pedestal as some flawless being, Chazelle’s film seeks to uncover the more human side of the mission as opposed to the blockbuster mentality it could’ve easily adopted.
That’s not to say First Man is without its spectacle – the scenes depicting Armstrong’s training and the moon mission itself are absolutely stunning (and terrifying) to witness – but this is a deeply human story, and both Ryan Gosling (as Armstrong) and Claire Foy (as his supportive wife) prove more than up to the challenge of depicting their relationship in an honest manner; the screenplay from Josh Singer (The Post, Spotlight), working off James R. Hansen’s prose First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, never romanticising their union, merely presenting it as a supportive yet lightly volatile partnership.
Driving home the dangers associated with NASA’s pioneering temperament regarding space travel, First Man balances its 140 minute running time between the personal drama of the Armstrong’s and the countless astronauts who paid the ultimate price in attempting to place mankind on the moon; Patrick Fugit, Christopher Abbott, and Ethan Embry just a few of the familiar faces filling out the various supporting roles. And though this is very much Gosling and Foy’s show, Jason Clarke as Armstrong’s closest friend in the program, and Corey Stoll as a rather unsympathetic Buzz Aldrin earn the most traction in a film that’s surprisingly void of any solid supporting roles.
Reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s breathtaking Dunkirk in that it takes a more subtle approach in its presentation of an event so epic in scale, Chazelle has crafted something truly impeccable with First Man. Reuniting with his La La Land composer Justin Hurwitz, the theatrical orchestral score helps the film achieve its vintage mindset, which is only improved by Linus Sandgren‘s exquisite cinematography.
A true giant whose achievements will forever leave an imprint in history, Armstrong couldn’t ask for a more fitting tribute than this stunning film. And as a filmmaker, Chazelle continues to ascend as a visionary of the industry who continues to prove his intellect as an unmatched cinematic storyteller.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
First Man is screening in cinemas from Thursday, 11th October 2018.