First Man Reviews
'First Man' is a lift off folks. A beautiful, yet melancholic look on a man's journey to the moon. Focusing on grief and loss that can poison anyone's thoughts. At the end, you get the sad realization it was a suicide mission, not a heroic one. Making you think twice of wanting to be an astronaut.
Also, the stupid controversy surrounding the American flag is one of the most pointless up cries ever. Anywhere...
Ryan Gosling is great as Neil Armstrong. Now some people have criticized his performance as being "dull" or "stilted". While not the most exciting or colorful performance of the year, but the same can be said about Armstrong as a person. Gosling performance as a calculated man who is somewhat cold to his family over a personal tragedy - it is more depressing when reflecting back. It makes it more powerful. I got more out of it than some people.
Claire Foy is also great - the relationship between her and Gosling is very believable. You really do feel her concerns, but frustration which was brilliantly represented, especially during the emotional scenes. However, I wish they wrote something better for Foy than play "the wife" at home.
Damien Chazelle, my main man. Back once again to blow my socks off. A complete departure compared to his previous films 'Whiplash' and 'La La Land', in terms of film making and themes. Visually striking with a 60's-like archive look which fits the time period. The way Chazelles films space shuttles leaving earth's atmosphere is terrifying, because it's all from Neil's point of view. One minute it's blue sky, then pitch black. I think any movie that can me feel motion sickness is an achievement in my books. Plus the cinematography being shot on Techniscope cameras gives an organic and raw look. The close ups and tight spaces - it's a claustrophobic nightmare.
The moon landing sequence is absolutely breathing and some of the best film making in the entire movie. It also contains one of the saddest scenes I've seen in awhile, which got my eyes leaking. I swear, if that didn't happen and was made up for the movie, then I won't be happy. Still, makes me wonder if Chazelle and Kubrick faked the moon landing together.
The sound design is incredible and adds to the fear of space travel. Whenever they leave earth's orbit during the testing scenes with the shuttle rattling and the sound of mental weakening - you literally keep expecting the shuttle to fall into pieces at any moment. Along with thundering engines from the rockets; it increase the tension of each test.
For issues: The movie is too long with the run time hurting the flow. I wasn't bored or anything, just some scenes felt slow and worn out. Judging from the trailers, I guess there's a longer cut, because of the scenes that are not in the movie.
The score could've been more memorable, in my opinion. I honestly don't remember it, which is a shame as space films usually have great scores. Again, not bad, just decent.
Overall rating: Not the best Chazelle movie compared to his other work, but still a compelling character study on burying grief, while lost in the stars. Drifting away into that good night. Karen Armstrong, the star child.
So, people are fucking stupid. We knew that. But it obscures the fact that First Man is a serious and intelligent film that is more interested in interpersonal development, than it is interstellar travel. And what scenes we do get of the Gemini and Apollo missions are documentary-like, realistic, claustrophobic, and well-researched. First Man focuses on Neil Armstrong's struggle of trying to cope with a chaotic American space program and the loss of his daughter. The domestic scenes are something out of Terrence Mallick's Tree of Life, minus the internal narration. The mission scenes are reminiscent of The Right Stuff, but more focused for obvious reasons. Damien Chazelle opts for a glacially-paced and arty film, rather than an octane-fueled one. That being said, some scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat with building tension, even if you know the result. Gosling acts his ass off, despite the constant criticism of his disengaged expression in many of his roles. His earnest believability and heartache carries many scenes. Claire Foy manages to avoid the nagging wife stereotypes and displays the other half of a couple trying and failing to deal with grief. First Man is a superb and nuanced film that easily could have been a lazy biopic, but it strived to be something more. It's not a perfect film and lacks the oomph or energy to achieve true greatness, but its certainly an interesting choice and one that manages to land on target.
The acting is probably one of my favorite parts about this movie. Claire Foy has a stellar performance, and Ryan Gosling was- well- Ryan Gosling. The only reason this movie gets a low audience score is because of the technical aspects, something not to make a great deal of fuss over, and also something I barely noticed through the whole course of the movie.