Academy Award-winning director, Damien Chazelle, shoots for the moon with his newest film, First Man. The biopic follows Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his mission to the moon. But does this dramatic space adventure land?
Eh. Kind of.
The narrative decides to take a personal focus to provide us with more insight into Armstrong’s tragic background and how it fuels him through his career leading up to the historical walk on the moon. Although this is an interesting choice, it creates quite a pacing issue. The runtime is 138 minutes, however, it seemed I was in the theatre for HOURS. There are actually several pivotal moments where I felt the film could have ended, but it just kept going.
There are some dramatic and visceral moments that played well on screen, especially if you have the opportunity to see First Man in IMAX or Dolby formats. Although some of the glossy imagery feels repetitive to that of space travel classics such as Apollo 13, I found the cinematography by Linus Sandgren to capture more realism that is often ignored in this genre. I applaud the filming’s technical marvels.
Biopics are typically award show darlings, especially when it comes to acting. Ryan Gosling is known for his expressive performances so diving into a quieter character is interesting to watch. He gives a strong yet detached performance as Armstrong, however, it is Claire Foy who shines as Armstrong’s strong-willed wife, Janet. Foy is no stranger to tremendous performances and has some very strong scenes in First Man. I would not be surprised to see her nominated for her supporting role as the awards season progresses.
Final Thoughts: First Man is a personal and more realistic take on the typical “man on the moon” fantasy we have grown accustomed to. It is a flawed and LONG journey to the moon, but a interesting ride.