First Man reminds us how goddamn scary space travel is and that sheer bravery and heroism that fuels the impossible being possible.
Damien Chazelle continues to be a director I very much have excitement for. From the universally acclaimed Whiplash to the divisive La La Land (I love it), Chazelle has put together a completely different beast. Music isn’t the through-line for once - though don’t think that means that Justin Hurwitz once again knocks it out of the park - but instead it’s the claustrophobic, captivating journey and motivation of Neil Armstrong towards the one thing the world knows him for.
Starting almost a decade prior to the event, whether you know the history or not, First Man highlights it’s the work of many brave people and sharp minds to put man on the moon, and the cost therein. Film tends to paint a pretty picture of astronauts (unless things go wrong), but even when things are going right you’re thrown into extreme closeups of men packed like sardines thrown about by the threat of burning rockets and technical hitches and sound design that keeps you rattled alongside them.
In fact, the sound design is so on point, there’s a particular moment that took my breath away. For best effect, go out and watch this movie in IMAX. You’ll see what I’m talking about. Once again with space on film, bigger is better. So don’t wait until you can see it at home or on the phone or heaven forbid, a boring-ass airplane.
First Man is damn fine filmmaking, even if it does strip the glamour from it. Gosling powers through with a solid cast as Armstrong, and the film faults only really with some second and third act pacing (which is initially perfect) and how the breathtaking and powerful moments are few and far between. But maybe that’s just because we know how it ends, and it costs a lot to get to that money shot.