Tony's Take

FIRST MAN review

Experience the Impossible Journey 

July 20, 1969.  One of the most famous recorded dates in human history.  Synonymous with “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for Mankind”.  “First Man”, director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to the critically-acclaimed “La La Land”, tells the remarkably-difficult journey that Neil Armstrong traveler to become the first ever person to walk on the moon. Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) lived in California working for the Air Force before his time with NASA came.  After suffering a terrible tragedy, Armstrong and his family pursue a fresh start as he takes a job with NASA; only knowing that this new organization is interested in space exploration.  As the missions continue, their long-term goal of landing on the moon is set and each subsequent mission gets them closer and closer.  However, space travel is anything but clockwork and many sacrifices are made, including the lives of many individuals that lead many to question whether any of this is worth it.  The rest of the film details this impossible journey and the remarkable achievement that followed all of the hard work, time, and sacrifice.

Ryan Gosling re-teams with his “La La Land” director and why wouldn’t he; lightning strikes twice!  His ability to portray the quiet, to-himself hero is astonishing; capturing so much emotion with every mannerism and cadence of his voice.  Claire Foy as Janet Armstrong is a top tier combination, as she too steals her scenes and gives us a truly heartbreaking and powerful performance.  The rest of the cast of “First Man” is stellar as well, especially Jason Clarke’s Ed White and Corey Stoll’s Buzz Aldrin (I had no idea he was arrogant).  Crafted with Chazelle’s masterful vision, “First Man” gives us a stunning canvas of cinematography to enjoy; especially the sequences on the moon!  When news broke about there not being a scene depicting the American flag being planted on the moon, the media and the public were up-in-arms.  I can happily say that this was the correct choice (though it is visible on the moon); as not only is “First Man” a very patriotic film already, but Chazelle instead provides us with a thought-provoking moment that leaves the viewer to form their own conclusion.

While the film features strong performances and is visually-appealing, it does have its struggles.  At 141 minutes, “First Man” does travel at a less-than-lightspeed’s pace.  Bouncing around from slow emotional scenes, to heart-racing space travel one’s, there is never a firm pace established.  The viewer is given a very intimate and thorough history of both Neil Armstrong and the history of NASA, but some of it is more interesting than others.  The film would have absolutely benefited from a less-bloated narrative.  While this in no way detracts from Gosling and Foy’s excellence, it holds “First Man” back just a little from becoming the next excellent space classic.

Largely held-together by Gosling and Foy’s stunning performances, “First Man” is an in-depth, heart-pounding history lesson led-by stunning visuals and a breathtaking scope that beautifully-serves as both an entertaining thrill ride and a deserving dedication to the man that was Neil Armstrong!

 4/5

FIRST MAN is rated PG-13 for some thematic content involving peril, and brief strong language, in theaters OCTOBER 12TH!

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