By Landon Hilst | Echo
"First Man" is directed by Damien Chazelle and stars Ryan Gosling in the role of legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Gosling plays a quiet and reserved Armstrong with very good emotional depth and realism. From his posture and mannerisms to his speech patterns, it was a refreshing departure from his past roles and stereotype as "the guy from 'The Notebook.'" Armstrong's relationship with his family and how his work with NASA impacts them is a large part of the narrative in "First Man" and helps ground a character who is viewed so highly in American history. While not the main draw for a film involving early space travel and certainly a weaker aspect of the film as a whole, Chazelle's quiet portrayal of Armstrong's home life delivered a refreshing perspective, with Claire Foy delivering a solid performance as Janet Armstrong.
Pivoting from the down-to-earth story beats, Chazelle also delivers some of the most harrowing scenes of early space travel put to film. Prepare to grip your seats during intense moments as NASA's trial and error leading up to the Apollo 11 mission challenges Armstrong's mind and body.
The pacing and visuals certainly provide powerful scenes, but what tips them over the edge is the sound effects and mixing for which "First Man" is nominated for several Oscars. Transforming the already dramatic story into something more akin to a horror film, the sounds of a tiny metal capsule flinging about several pilots and buckling under immense pressure were extremely well done.
"First Man" is a well shot, well executed movie, with the intense and beautiful sequences involving space and Gosling's performance as Armstrong being the highlights. Some slower moments in the film made the movie drag slightly in the middle, but the beginning and end portions of the film mixed with great acting all around definitely hold Chazelle's fourth feature film at a deserved four out of five stars.
Although we know the end result of the struggle to put man on the Moon, the journey to that conclusion in "First Man" was captivating and a strong aspect of the movie. Seeing the men and women devote their time and life was captured beautifully with Linus Sandberg as Cinematographer ("La La Land"). It also stands as a piercing reminder of the danger Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and many others since have faced while furthering human space endeavors.
"First Man" opened in theaters on Oct. 12, 2018 and has garnered large appeal by the Academy of Motion Pictures due to its fantastic score and sound editing. It currently sits with four nominations in 2019's Oscar race for Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects.