Dir; Damien Chazellle. Starring; Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke. PG-13. Color. 141 min.
Landing on the moon is one of America’s as well as humanity’s greatest achievements. “It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Oscar nominated director Damien Chazelle re-creates the story of how it all happened with his latest film “First Man.”
The movie opens strong with a visceral sequence where star Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong is able to escape the earth’s atmosphere in a plane and having to maneuver his way back to the surface when his plane bounces back and forth off of the atmosphere upon re-entry. It is a preview test run for things to come. After his “reckless” behavior along with the tragic death of his daughter, Armstrong is grounded. His wife Janet Armstrong (Claire Foy), wants Neil home and safe after the tragedy. Neil is driven. Coming out of his grief, Armstrong puts in for a position at NASA to potentially fly into outer space. He was one of those smarter human beings and shines beyond his competition.
Armstrong is grilled by a committee headed by Deke Slayton (An always excellent Kyle Chandler). The committee asks Armstrong about the death of his daughter. He is forthcoming about his feelings after her passing and how that could affect him or any potential project, especially a trip to the moon. Slayton respects the honesty and Armstrong is on the team.
The concept of taking a trip to the moon is not easy, but every astronaut wants to be the first one there. Elliot See (Patrick Fugit) is scheduled to ride along side Armstrong. An eager man, See dies tragically during a trial run explosion. Then comes along the ambitious and cocky Buzz Aldren (Corey Stoll) to take his place. Our two first men on the moon are in place and the rest is history.
“First Man” is not a bad movie. It is kind of like eating vanilla ice cream. The production values and acting are what we expect. But after the first bite, where are the Reese’s pieces or mini M&M’s or whipped cream?
There are several excellent sequences. The reaction Ryan Gosling has as he is being asked by the board about his daughter’s death is filled with the perfect amount of tension and sadness. The take off and eventual moon landing is captivating.
Unfortunately you also have to deal with the erratic camera movements combined with eloquent shots by Cinematographer Linus Sandgren. I understand the family is falling apart at the threads because Neil Armstrong is attempting to go into space. Stop moving the damn camera and going in and out of focus to show how stressed they are, then compose a nice frame. Take a breath. Let the actors and the writers do their job. It’s called a tripod Linus!
The biggest fault “First Man” has is that there is no angle to a story we already know the outcome of. Whether you like the film or not, James Cameron created a love story out of the “Titanic”. While some of his facts were wrong, Oliver Stone captured the paranoia and distrust Americans went through after a president was assassinated in the 60’s with “JFK”. Yes the story of Neil Armstrong is fascinating. He deserves to be celebrated as an American hero. There is simply no gray area here as a movie. Neil Armstrong good. Ah, Russia bad for about two minutes? It feels like a robot of a film. “First Man” is less of a captivating experience and more like a chapter that should be told in a history book. I’m not opposed to this picture, it is well crafted for the most part. But if three years from now a documentary on Neil Armstrong is on the History Channel while TNT or AMC is showing “First Man,” I will have to go with the History Channel.
Suck Factor: 3out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!