The moon landing is one of humanity’s greatest achievements yet there are some that refuse to believe it ever happened. Of course, I find any conspiracy theory disputing it’s validity to be rubbish.
Regardless, no one can dispute the incredible sacrifices and costly events that led to the historic moon landing of July 20th, 1969. First Man is a telling of those events and specifically the American hero behind that immortal achievement.
Published in 2005, First Man by James R. Hansen was an official biography about Neil Armstrong’s personal life and dedication to the United States space program. I haven’t read the book, so it’s unclear if Josh Singer’s (Spotlight, The Post) script was a direct adaption or just an inspiration from Hansen’s published book.
First Man begins eight years before the moon landing, and highlights Neil Armstrong’s journey as a NASA recruit to Apollo 11 captain. Instead of focusing on the politics of the NASA program, Hansen’s script concentrates more on the loss of Armstrong’s 2-year old daughter and how that tragedy changes his perspective of life and death. Bringing this emotional paradigm to the screen is Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash and La La Land) who does an amazing job of juxtaposing Neil’s greatest accomplishment against his greatest loss. As such, those events come full circle in one of the more emotional moments in the films climax.
Watching First Man made me realize just how powerful Damien Chazelle’s gifts are. This is a director who is fully aware of his craft and the results are astonishing. Unlike Apollo 13 or The Right Stuff technical strengths, First Man focuses more on Armstrong’s personal journey that led to Apollo 11.
It’s been quite a while since I felt this immersed in a movie. The rawness and intimacy of what Armstrong was experiencing on the launch is breathtaking. By putting the viewer into his seat, we understand just how vulnerable Armstrong and his crew were. The fear one would feel while strapped to a silo made out of rickety bolts and flammable fuel is un-measurable. The sheer terror they felt is perfectly highlighted via extreme close-up shots and wide shots of the rockets accession into space.
Despite all of the visual wonderments of the film, it’s power wouldn’t have connected as greatly if not for the wonderful performances of Ryan Gosling and Clair Foy. As Neil Armstrong, Gosling is immersive yet engaging while Claire is solid in her performance as the stoic Janet Armstrong.
What makes the First Man so indelible is it’s relatable message of hope. As humans, we all experience tragedy but it’s through that pain we learn to accomplish so much more, just like Neil Armstrong did. I highly recommend this film which is easily my favorite of 2018.
And the Oscar goes to…
Rating: 5 stars
On the heels of their six-time Academy Award®-winning smash, La La Land, Oscar®-winning director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling reteam for Universal Pictures’ First Man, the riveting story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic Apollo 11 flight. A visceral and intimate account told from Armstrong’s perspective, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the film explores the triumphs and the cost—on Armstrong, his family, his colleagues and the nation itself—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.
CAST: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciaran Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit and Lukas Haas
DIRECTED BY: Damien Chazelle
SCREENPLAY BY: Josh Singer
BASED ON THE BOOK BY: James R. Hansen