After “Whiplash” and “La La Land,” Damien Chazelle is back with “First Man,” telling the story of Neil Armstrong, played by Ryan Gosling, and the obstacles and personal journey that led to his walk on the moon. I am happy to report that “First Man” is yet another strong addition to Chazelle’s filmography.
“First Man” features fantastic direction and great performances. On a technical level, the film is magnificent. It looks beautiful, the score is terrific, the sound is so realistic and the cinematography is immaculate.
I had the pleasure of watching this in IMAX, and it was so worth it. There are plenty of scenes that are filmed with a handheld camera, which adds the feeling of the viewer being in the rocket ship with the astronauts. The last 20 minutes in particular are unreal. It honestly feels like they shot the film on the moon; that is how astonishing the film looks. There are a lot of practical effects and of course some computer-generated image (CGI) involved, but it is hard to tell what is authentic or CGI. The film actually looks like it was made in 1969 from the way it was shot, the production and even the format.
Gosling portrays Neil as a man who is very committed to his work and someone who does not show much emotion. While there may be some complaints that he portrays him as stoic, it is said that Neil was indeed like that. It is hard to say if Gosling will get any award nominations because it does look like a stacked year for Best Actor, but I personally think he does have a chance.
Claire Foy, who plays Neil’s wife, delivers a very strong performance as well. She plays a wife who is understandably concerned with Neil possibly not coming home from his mission. There are times where she looks genuinely concerned, aggravated and upset at Neil. There is one argument scene where it was like I was actually watching Neil and his wife arguing, not the actors portraying them.
The second act does meander a little bit and with nearly a two-and-a-half hour run time, it does feel like the pacing is a little off. I do wish that I was a little more emotionally invested with the characters, but that may just be a personal thing or a flaw of the screenplay. In any case, I highly enjoyed “First Man” and would recommend seeing it on the big screen. It is likely that this will be talked about a lot come award season.
While it took nearly 50 years for Neil’s story to be told on the big screen, “First Man” is certainly worth the wait.