Synopsis: A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Pablo Schreiber, Jason Clarke
Director: Damien Chazelle
Running Length: 141 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: There’s nothing I love more than a movie about space. I like seeing monsters in space, I cheer for Muppets in Space, I love space adventures, and I really enjoy movies about the space program and how we made it into orbit. So you can imagine that First Man, focused on the life of Neil Armstrong, seemed like a slam dunk winner to me when it was first announced. Adding to that confidence was Oscar winning director Damien Chazelle (La La Land) and Ryan Gosling (Blade Runner 2049) so my interest was definitely piqued. Then something really strange happened…I saw the movie.
Little doubt remains that Chazelle is an accomplished filmmaker and that Gosling is one of the best actors working today but their reunion after La La Land is a chilly film that I just could not connect with. I know many supporters of the film have said that Armstrong himself was a hard nut to crack, legendary in his aloofness, and Gosling was just paying service to the man he was playing but the disconnect goes beyond that. I found it hard to find anything warm in the movie, not even Claire Foy (The Girl in the Spider’s Web) overselling her much ballyhooed role as Armstrong’s wife. This is the third Foy film I’ve seen in 2018 where she’s struggled with maintaining an American accent throughout and I’m wondering if anyone is listening to her in post production.
Where the film finds some modicum of success is chronicling the dangerous space program that Armstrong and his compatriots participated in in the race to beat the Russians to the moon. These men put their faith in new technology and materials that were unproven and were pioneers in our exploration of areas outside our atmosphere. With people dying in the process you do have to ask yourself if it was worth it and by the time Armstrong lands on the moon there is a sense of accomplishment you feel just as much as they do. Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer needed to find more of these moments to give their film a little more life.