Damien Chazelle’s latest project focuses on Neil Armstrong and the struggles he faced while collaborating with NASA for the moon landing. We see Neil from the loss of his daughter to… (spoiler alert) the moon landing. Throughout the entire runtime of the film, we’re shown what made Neil who he was. Not only is “First Man” about the difficulties it took to land on the moon, but it also showcases Neil’s change in character throughout that time. It’s definitely a fascinating bio pic and one that doesn’t cease to be intense and gripping.
Chazelle’s previous films include “Whiplash” and “La La Land”, but this time jazz isn’t one of the main themes. It’s clear from those film though, that he can direct the hell out of a film. It’s more than likely that he will become one of the all-time greats like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. His directing talents really came into great use with “First Man”. While he didn’t write the screenplay for this one, it is absolutely a Chazelle film.
Armstrong is played by the great Ryan Gosling, who also stared in “La La Land”, which he was nominated for an Oscar for. The same is quite possible here. Gosling perfectly portrays Neil from the first shot of the film and its no doubt that it will be one of his finer performances of his career. In addition to “La La Land”, he gave riveting performances in “Drive” and “Blade Runner 2040”.
Claire Foy plays Janet Armstrong. Again, like Gosling she gives a ranged performance and one that will hopefully receive some award recognition when the time comes. She could have been more compelling if there was more to her character though, but instead she is, for the most part, the worrying wife at home with the kids. However, she does an outstanding job with the material given.
On a technical level, “First Man” is an outstanding achievement. The sound design brings you right there into the cockpit with Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and the flight sequences and even the on-ground practice trials are incredibly intense, making you aware that being an astronaut is no easy business.
In addition to the sound design, the musical score is one of the bests of the year. Justin Hurwitz (also the composer of “La La Land”), composed a beautiful score and one that reminds many cinephiles of Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”.
Chazelle’s vision of this story is both unique and realistic. Nothing is over the top, fantasized or exaggerated. “First Man” gives us a compelling and even somewhat gritty look into Neil Armstrong and one of the most difficult achievements of mankind.
Rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language