First Man

First Man (Damien Chazelle, 2018) wr. Josh Singer from book by James R. Hansen; prod. Marty Bowen, Damien Chazelle, Wyck Godfrey; release 12Oct18

Biopic of astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the moon on 20 July 1969.

Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Christophe Abbott, Ciaran Hinds, Olivia Hamilton, Pablo Schreiber

Not what I expected. I assumed this would be about the moon shot and landing, but it's mostly about random other stuff, including especially an over-dramatised imagination of the relationship between Armstrong and his wife. About which who cares? Who cares he had a wife? He's history; she's not in it. The film itself suggests that it would have been easier for Armstrong to do his job without his kids and kids.

The music is bad. Too loud, intrusive, repetitive, HW schlock. As the Apollo approaches the moon landing, there is dialogue, but you can't hear it because of the stupid music. There's a brief moment when the movie gets it right after the landing when there's no music and you get some idea of what it might have been like to be there - but the music soon starts up again. It's always been one of the main things wrong with the HW style: just in case there's any doubt in the audience's mind about how they're supposed to be feeling, the music tells them - in spades.

As usual, there's not much point in criticising a film for not being some other film that you might have wanted it to be. However, this one has a lot of things I would have liked to had have more of: the dialogue (drowned out by the music), the technical talk, information about the science-y stuff, the sights and sounds (sfx) associated with being in space. ... But it's a Hollywood film - so the main guy has to be 1. in jeopardy, 2. in love. Astronauts don't need to be either of those things.

I also would have liked it to have been an hour shorter. And not have Jason Clarke in it.

Despite my July prediction, I can't see this winning any awards. Even the special effects are not particularly striking.

... La La Land Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle’s First Man ... is anchored by a sensitive Ryan Gosling performance as Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong. The intimate epic scored high marks on the festival circuit. Indiewire.

Without Gosling's performance (and Claire Foy's warm and touching one as his wife Janet) and without a screenplay that balanced the intimate & moving with the extra terrestrial bits, the film would just be a clever re-enactment, a theme park ride, using today's high powered digital technology to make it a bloody good re-enactment. While I pick out Gosling and Foy, the film is actually a terrific ensemble piece, carefully and sensitively cast. Andrew Urban.

Nods to Apollo 13 (1995), The Right Stuff (1983) and even 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) notwithstanding, with First Man Chazelle has created a unique work, a breathtaking true life adventure story: an intimate epic which is as fascinated by the small steps as it is exhilarated by the giant leap. John Bleasdale, Sight and Sound.

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Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 15 September, 2018 | Now: 16 January, 2019