First Man Gives Viewers a Journey Through History

First Man Gives Viewers a Journey Through History
By: Rich Bachman Last Updated: October 20, 2018

The true story about Astronaut Neil Armstrong. The man who overcame odds and the tragedies of his life to become the first man to ever step foot on the Moon.

First Man is rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril and brief strong language.

Rating: 8/10

What Worked:

Director Damien Chazelle practically hit on all cylinders with the release of the early fall hit, First Man. One thing apparent early on in the movie is the interesting cinematography Chazelle chose to depict not only intense space flight, but also the 60’s era. The film is primarily filmed by hand with a lot of shaky cam scenes. This fit the rugged nature of the movie. I also enjoyed the first-person camera angles throughout. When dealing with something as intense as flying in a rocket ship to the moon, this particular camera angle allows the viewer to experience these moments with an amazing visual feeling, as though we are present ourselves. The acting is also top notch with Ryan Gosling performing admirably as a man who has gone through much loss in his life, only to channel that as inspiration to succeed. My biggest surprise, however, was newcomer Claire Foy, who stars as Armstrong’s wife, Janet. There are so many movies where the counterpart to our hero is forgotten, but not in First Man. Although her husband succeeded in changing the world, there was still much loneliness and heartache as she was trying to raise their family while he was gone for so long. Do not be surprised if Foy ends up receiving supporting actress Oscar nods in a few months. The rest of the cast is composed of well-known actors known for their dramatic makeup, and they shine as well. The score by Justin Hurwitz is perfect for this type of movie. It is a slow build throughout, ensuring that it does not overpower the movie’s dialogue. However, when it is getting down to more serious themes, it picks up and has your emotions bouncing. The movie is accompanied by great 60’s costume designs and quality special effects that make footprints on the Moon look as if they are right in front of you.

What Didn’t Work:

When making a two-and-a-half-hour movie that spans a timeline of nine years, the main issue has to be pace. Chazelle did an admirable job, but there were some acts of the movie that felt rushed as they attempted to stay within the time limit. The main culprit of this is the famous Apollo flight to the Moon during the film’s third act. The final trip takes up less than a half-hour of film time, which is surprising given the film’s total length. I understand that Chazelle wanted the main key of the story to be about Armstrong and the people in his life, rather than on that one mission. However, given the cultural significance of the mission itself, I thought it would receive more attention. My only other minor complaint is that I would have liked to see more backstory for Buzz Aldrin’s character. Being on the flight with Armstrong, Aldrin’s name was well-known to me throughout my life, and I was hoping for more significant scenes with him.

Overall:

First Man is a really good movie chronicling the most important space exploration in our country’s history. Additionally, it documents how an influential icon has to deal with the negative parts of life in order to persevere and accomplish great things. This movie is not for everybody, however. With a long run time and dated dialogue, many younger viewers will have a hard time keeping their eyes open. On the other hand, people alive during the 60’s, as well as big space exploration fans, will be fully engaged. First Man is a very well-rounded movie and I expect its name to be placed among the nominees come award season.