Thursday, October 18, 2018

[Review] First Man

Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) teams up with Ryan Gosling once again to tell the story of Neil Armstrong and the lunar landing. It's both an in-depth character study and well-crafted technical achievement, and it's absolutely astounding.

Gosling plays Armstrong, and he's portrayed as a quiet and reserved family man, as well as a bit of a risk-taker when it comes to his aerial endeavors. Claire Foy (really great) plays his wife, and the two are coping with the painful nightmare of losing a child to cancer. Soon after, Armstrong sets his sights toward space and gets selected for NASA's moon mission, and well, the rest is monumental history.

First Man is a phenomenal cinematic experience. It's immersive, visceral, and utterly moving. We're thrusted into this amazing story as it takes off with a major sense gravitas and gusto. It's full of soaring and exhilarating moments, as well as more down-to-earth moments -- like the comical scene of the spaces trainees sitting in a stuffy classroom with their shirts stained with puke from the simulations. This film is also extremely well-shot and provides plenty of exquisite visuals -- my favorite being an image of Armstrong's eyes displayed directly above a horizon -- it's both surreal and symbolic.

The sound design is superb, too. It places us in the midst of the spacecraft, as every crank, shift and rattle is amplified. The heavy breathing we witness practically fogs the movie screen as our own breathing pattern mirrors the characters. And of course, the film's last 20 minutes are for the books. They'll have your heart racing. They'll have you leaning forward in your seat. From the initial shuttle launch to the moon touchdown -- it's pure magic. Chilling and spectacular. Climactic and cathartic. As beautiful as it is eerie. It certainly made my own feelings float.

And even with all the technology and lofty heights at play in First Man, Chazelle never strays from the humanity at its core.

* 9/10 *

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