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First Man review: showing emotion proves harder than going to space

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First Man review: showing emotion proves harder than going to space

Reading time: 2 minutes

First Man chronicles Neil Armstrong and NASA’s rough ride to the moon. Disaster missions caused by tiny oversights and miscalculations leave engineers and their families on edge over a gruelling process.

Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle find themselves back together again, I can only assume not by accident, as they ride off the back of La La Land’s success into this biopic. It’s worth noting, Chazelle’s last three films (in just four years!) are all Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Off the bat it’s gorgeous, mixing Americana with views from space fill you with a nostalgia, as if you were raised in the 60s. It’s this beauty that makes the primitive standard of the equipment even more jarring.

The rattling of the crafts and fragility of structures fill you with unease and even though we all know what happens in this story, there’s still a sense of dread that’s justified over and over again. These craft scenes are claustrophobic and nauseating which adds to the experience, while simultaneously making you never want to see space, no matter how incredible the views.

A magnificent Claire Foy portrays a woman truly fraught with worry as Armstrong’s wife, a wife who somehow stomachs the test flights and braves her husband’s focus in the face of drastic uncertainty.

Armstrong is removed and Gosling plays it well, a numb character focused on the mission in an attempt to get away from his misfortunes, entirely neglecting the present. It’s in this detachment we see the skill of Armstrong and the strength of Janet Armstrong. Her shining moment is as Janet’s patience runs out and she ambushes ground control asking for the condition of her husband.

First Man features all the usual suspects you’d expect to be cast for the period: Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke and Shea Whigham to name just a few.

It’s an impressive feat to make a story everyone knows the ending to, exciting and nerve-racking. And while Chazelle is successful in doing this, it drags in certain places before swiftly picking up momentum again.

I’d give it 3½ flicks.

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