‘First Man’ Is An Emotionally Satisfying Rocket Ride (Movie Review)

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this was a movie about the first “caveman” given its title.  I know that’s a complete stretch, but for some reason First Man came as a surprise to me.  I knew nothing about it, but given the success and my adoration of 2016’s Hidden Figures I was instantly intrigued upon seeing the first trailer this year.  My love for space and interstellar voyages knows no boundaries, but my debunking of what’s true and what’s not gets the best of me every single time.  That’s why First Man kind of had me at hello.  Truth be told, the initial positive reviews of it also helped as well.  Let’s go on this voyage together and take a closer look down below at what First Man is all about.

The First Man revolves around the life of legendary U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong.  You know supposedly the first person to walk on the moon!  This biographical drama, based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, is directed by Damien Chazelle and written by Josh Singer.  It stars the ladies man Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, along with Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds, Christopher Abbott, Patrick Fugit, and Lukas Haas.  First Man focuses on the decade leading up to the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.  Steven Spielberg also has his hands in this outing as an executive producer.  And just in case you didn’t catch it this is also the re-teaming of Chazelle and Gosling here.  Remember that little flick called La La Land?  

What makes First Man very interesting for me is that it’s kind of told personally from Armstrong’s point of view.  While we follow other pertinent characters throughout we never lose sight of the fact that this is very much Neil’s story.  How much of it is true and how much of it is Hollywood I really can’t tell you, but regardless I feel like I walked away closer to Neil than ever before.  For example, I never knew about his daughter, his family struggles and tribulations.  That aspect of his life was emotionally electrifying here not to mention the death defying situations I saw the man heroically get out of here.  It made the famous astronaut even more inspirational in my eyes,  Again though I hope I’m not just blinded by any Hollywood fiction thrown in.  I guess I’ll never really know.

In addition to the very believable performances of Gosling, Foy and others there’s also two other stars here.  Those are the film’s cinematography, albeit very shaky at times, and the score done by Justin Hurwitz.  Both actually put you in the driver’s seat here as you literally feel every bump and bruise Armstrong takes whether it’s maneuvering out of a death defying aerial situation or even the training he underwent to do such.  That’s just it though.  The technical challenges of what NASA overcame in both the Gemini and Apollo programs were awe inspiring when you see them onscreen.  However, does one really think of what the home life is also like for the extraordinary human that accomplishes these unbelievable tasks?  Do you see where I’m going here?  The grass is always greener on the other side and now we see why according to the story of humanity on display here.

Before signing off here I want to be completely honest with you.  What really makes First Man really work is it doesn’t get bogged down too much in the history facts or mathematics of it all.  By delivering on an emotional screenplay about a flawed character we care about the movie soars even before its subject matter gets off the ground and does the deed we came here to see.  Sure it was cool seeing some familiar names like Buzz Aldrin fleshed out on-screen, but the strength of the leading man here and his woman is blatantly obvious.  We care about them and as a result we the audience are invested in them despite the Titanic-like story we already know the ending to.  It doesn’t hurt either that the movie starts off on a high…literally.  You’re basically riveted here before our main protagonist is properly introduced.  I appreciated that.  Also, not once did I even grow tiresome from the flick’s 2 hour and 21 minute runtime.  That’s saying a lot.  It’s not overly patriotic, but rather a deep, awe inspiring character study of one of Earth’s greatest explorers of the heavens.  Best of all it’s a story of both trump and humanity.  Enjoy!


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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