I walked into First Man with mixed expectations—while I love history related movies, Ryan Gosling is not my favourite actor. Regardless, his acting was up to par for this film and the movie itself was a fairly entertaining watch.
The movie follows the life of Neil Armstrong from 1961-1969, showing how he came to be the first man on the moon. It shows the challenges NASA experienced in preparation for this expedition, highlighting the failures and raising questions such as, “is this expedition worth all the loss?”
You might be asking yourself, “okay, so the movie was good. Why is it only 70%?” I struggled in scaling this movie because there was nothing necessarily wrong with the film, but with the abundance of space movies coming out lately, it also didn’t stand out much from the rest. Hidden Figures (2016), The Martian (2015), Interstellar (2014), Gravity (2013). With the exception of Hidden Figures, these films are more fictitious, but I mention these films specifically because they all had unique features. First Man’s unique quality in comparison with these other movies was the focus on family, which isn’t that unique on the whole.
Director Damien Chazelle partnered here again with Ryan Gosling (the two formerly worked together on La La Land) probably hoping to rake in the Oscars, but if anyone deserves an Oscar for their work in this film it’s Claire Foy. Foy plays Janet Armstrong, Neil’s husband. Her fears, her frustration, her love affected me most as a viewer. I hope she is rewarded for her performance with a nomination, at least.
To give this movie some credit, it is extremely difficult to tell a story that everyone already knows. The familial focus interested me because I never felt compelled to look up Neil Armstrong’s personal life. Unfortunately, the movie had a slow build up, well-known ending, and fairly typical filmography. Back to the drawing board, Chazelle.