02 October 2018

You know when Damien Chazelle (director) and Ryan Gosling (no introduction needed) reteam for a film following the success of 6 time Oscar-winning musical La La Land, it’s going to be good. Better than good.

Directed by Damien Chazelle | Starring Ryan Gosling & Claire Foy

First Man is the latest masterpiece out of Universal Pictures, and is positively the best biological drama to hit cinemas in a very long time, with incredible acting, a phenomenal score and expert direction. Based on James. R Hansen’s book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong, the film adaptation can only be described as an exceptionally genuine endeavor by its creators.


The film follows Neil Armstrong (Gosling) – the first man to walk on the moon – in the years prior to his successful Apollo mission. The film also explores Armstrong’s relationship with his daughter Karen, Cold War-period ‘Space Race’ between the USA and the Soviet Union, the lives and deaths of NASA astronauts and NASA endeavours in the early 60s, leading through to the successful lunar landing in July 1969. An insight into the life of Armstrong never seen by the world, First Man is wholeheartedly real rather than fantastical.


As an acutely cinematic film, First Man’s shot for shot sequences interwoven with historic footage make for a very ‘real’ first person watch. Adopting the handheld camera method, the story’s themes around exploration, risk and courage are highlighted in both a beautiful and industrious way for the audience. The bravery and true pioneering nature of 60s America, while not relatable to a modern audience, must be nostalgic and authentic for the audience who were alive in the time. Chazelle stated that the focus of his film was to show the “unseen, unknown aspects” of America’s mission to the moon, a feat achieved by heroing space almost as a character, rather than focusing wholly on the people who ventured there. First Man illustrated the complexities of Armstrong on the most complex human enterprise ever undertaken, however cleverly navigated around this plot without getting too weighed down in feeble human emotions.


The set and costume design in this film consistently oozed 60s, and epitomised the period, making the film an aesthetically pleasurable watch. But perhaps most notably, a mention must go to the score – the jarring music, intermingled with classical tunes and the whirring of the less-than-safe spacecrafts make for an anxiety-inducing and gripping watch – there’s an Oscar nod for Best Score or Sound Editing/Mixing, for sure. It would be remiss of me not to mention the strength of Gosling’s performance. In typical deadpan fashion in a role that seems tailor-made for him he enthralls, often in long stretches on his own. He is nondescript enough at times to be emblematic of all humankind but completely glues scenes together at others.


First Man is a lingering epic that truly illustrates the mammoth undertaking that was entering the final frontier while also defining what makes us human.


See First Man in cinemas from October 11.