“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.” -Neil Armstrong
On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first human to ever set foot on the Moon. First Man is the tale of everything it took to get him, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to achieve one of the greatest moments in human history. Primarily Armstrong’s story, this also entails the sacrifices made by those closest to him. Surprisingly, getting to the Moon isn’t easy. Who knew?
Unlike many biographical space films, First Man is a much more personal look at those that reached for the stars and lived to tell about it. What I learned most from this film is that I really didn’t understand what it took for this mission to take place. I knew of Armstrong and Aldrin stepping on the Moon of course but I don’t recall learning of the specifics such as the Gemini missions which were tests that would hopefully lead to the eventual Apollo missions whose primary goal was to reach the Moon and return successfully. I never knew the scope of human lives sacrificed in the name of mankind’s exploration of the unknown. I never understood the mental obstacles that must have plagued these brave souls. Everything from the smallest of mistakes that could lead to the deaths of everyone on board to the lives already lost and what that knowledge did to these men moving forward. How can you move on in the same path as those that died attempting what you are now tasked with? They were colleagues yes but they also bonded as friends and family. Armstrong lost more than most and yet persevered. Now his name is etched in the walls of human historical significance. This is his story.
After the loss of his two year-old daughter Karen, Armstrong found himself at a crossroads. No longer fulfilled in his chosen line of work as an engineer and pilot he applied for the astronaut program for NASA. As he pushed on test after test he seemed to lose himself in the process and because of this he often put aside those supporting him beyond the halls of NASA. His wife Janet was a strong source of support only to be often left on the sidelines watching her husband struggle with the burdens of going to the Moon. A more hidden aspect of his life that she witnessed on a daily basis was his internal battle with losing his little girl and the consequences of never facing it. He never spoke about Karen with his wife, he buried himself in the work and this only heightened her concern for his well being. He was a calm man with a tenacity that was integral to the overall mission. Some people are meant to do what they do, Armstrong was born to walk on the Moon. His determination and intelligence suggested only the fate of being a future Moonwalker was possible for him.
Damien Chazelle returns after the success of La La Land with his most technically ambitious film yet. To tackle this amazing, intimidating story he tapped his La La Land alum Ryan Gosling to star as the first man to walk on the Moon. In the midst of a skyrocketing career, Claire Foy delivers yet another astounding performance as the woman behind the man who held him together when he needed it most. The supporting cast is top notch featuring the talents of Jason Clarke, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds, and so many others who all turn in superb performances for an unforgettable true life story.
Gosling’s performance like most of his roles, is one of reservation as he allows for the emotions of his character to say everything with a look and minimal amount of words. He has the ability to show pure elation with a sly smirk and pure emotional defeat with a lost stare and a single tear down his face. He is a master of the minimalist performance and his portrayal of Neil Armstrong is all encompassing as he shows the most intimate, vulnerable moments of this man’s life and the most triumphant moment of finding his place in this world. Ironically he had to leave it to find it. With the support of Gosling, his movie wife Claire Foy and the rest of the supporting cast, Chazelle has hit another home run with First Man.
Chazelle’s approach is one of authenticity to the process of reaching such a lofty goal. He wanted to show the intricacies of the technical aspects of going to space and the more personal sacrifices that entail such an immense responsibility that is scrutinized by the entire human race. He created an up close look at the men in the capsules, the entirety of NASA behind them, and the families left helpless as their husbands, fathers, and sons attempted the impossible. “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Once you experience First Man, this quote takes on an entirely new meaning. If anything it’s an understatement for all that it took for history to go down as it did. First Man is an intense, sobering, sorrowful journey into every meaning of the word, unknown. Hold on tight.
Rated PG-13 For: some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language
Runtime: 141 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Biography, Drama, History
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Jason Clarke
Directed By: Damien Chazelle
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 5/ Acting: 5/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 4.5
OVERALL: 4.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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