First Man

Damien Chazelle’s First Man is a movie that manages to have a perspective that is peculiar and offers us a deeply affecting count of what went through the mind of Neil Armstrong for a period of time spanning for around 9 years. With every aspect of this movie focusing on the very human side of this tale about a major scientific advancement in the history, this isn’t that movie where you get to see the blatant glorification of the USA.

Neil who gets affected by the demise of his daughter opts to go for the Gemini mission and gets selected. The reclusive man gradually opens up. But the years weren’t easy for him as the attempts of NASA to place itself superior to the Russians ended up in terrible results including the loss of lives. The agonizing moments till the historic event is the Crux of the movie First Man.

The movie’s cinematography style opts for intensely tight shots and a major portion of those visuals was for giving us zoomed in look at the face of Neil and other important characters. Subtly Damien Chazelle establishes the fact that he isn’t going to show us about the logistical difficulties of the Moon mission. He was asking us to sort of imagine the headspace of a man who lost a girl and then witnesses a lot of tragic ends and eventually takes up a task to explore the unexplored with no assurance on making it back. First Man succeeds enormously in creating that humane agony and the movie is very much about the emotional struggle of Armstrong rather than a typical space saga.

Ryan Gosling underplayed the role of Neil Armstrong very nicely. There are only a very few scenes of Neil being emotionally susceptible and Ryan portrays those portions with great conviction. My favorite among the cast was the determined Claire Foy who shines as the caring Janet who stands tall with Neil in this emotional struggle. The very last scene in the movie is shot with no dialogues or background scores and the look in the eyes of these actors were just enough to carry the emotions. Buzz Aldrin’s role was played by Corey Stoll and Jason Clarke as Ed White was also memorable.

The making style of Chazelle has clarity. Like I said in the beginning, a majority of the portions are shot as tight close-up shots. Even the spaceship shots are very claustrophobic. It sort of builds that tension and whenever the movie slips to the wide angle grand shots, there is intimation for us to think about the emotional dimensions of those moments. The script by Josh Singer not only constructs this movie from that personal perspective of Neil it also addresses the ground realities happened at that time without justifying the decision to go to Moon. We see the oppressed black people going against the Apollo mission. The debate about spending Tax payer’s money also gets the spotlight. What’s more fascinating is the way this movie is giving space and dimension to Neil’s equation with family and friends. The edits are fabulous. The background score enriches the soul of the movie beautifully. I loved the way they never went with the idea of making it a visual spectacle.

First Man becomes a great experience because of the way it traverses through the emotional dilemmas of its central protagonist in a very real and affecting way. I was someone who was skeptical about the Moon mission thing as theories of it being fake is still floating in the air. But Chazelle manages to surpass that debate by making it a movie about the First Man rather than a movie about the mission.

Rating: 4/5

Final Thoughts

First Man becomes a great experience because of the way it traverses through the emotional dilemmas of its central protagonist in a very real and affecting way.


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.

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