The Academy Award-winning team of director Damien Chazelle and star Ryan Gosling (La La Land) reunites for this biopic on the adventures and life of Neil Armstrong, from his entry into NASA’s astronaut program in 1961 to his epoch-making walk on the moon eight years later.
There are at least two ways to look at a hero. You can stand back and gaze upwards, or you can draw closer and see heroic acts through the hero’s eyes. Maintaining the impressive pace that saw — over the course of two years — both Whiplash and La La Land capture wide audience and award attention, director Damien Chazelle is back to tell the story of one of America’s great heroes, Neil Armstrong. And he puts us right there with him.
First Man throws us immediately into the cockpit with Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his fellow test pilots as they break record after record, hurtling beyond the stratosphere in shaky metal prototypes that can barely take the strain. Each time they take off they risk death, which bonds them in a camaraderie that can be both noble and steely. At home, Armstrong maintains the taciturn logic that keeps him alive as a pilot, but it tears at his relationship with his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), and sons. When he’s called on with Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll, also at the Festival in Driven) and Mike Collins (Lukas Haas) to join NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Armstrong bears down for what might be the ultimate glory… or the ultimate sacrifice.
Academy Award-winning screenwriter Josh Singer (Spotlight) adapted James R. Hansen’s book about Armstrong, and gets the texture of his world and details of his character spot on. Chazelle takes that material and makes it viscerally cinematic, keeping the camera close and often using natural light. His eye gives every moment an urgency, even if you recall the events of the time. With Gosling, Foy, and the rest of the cast working at the top of their game, First Man inspires real awe at this story of heroism that is epic, majestic, and true.
Chazelle, it seems, enjoys going an extra mile for his works. The cast commented at the press conference attended by Ikon London Magazine, on the attention to details the director demonstrated at every stage of the process. From the extremely accurate, according to Armstrong’s sons who were also at the conference, to Neil’s favourite music (Moon Rapsody), to the team building at the NASA facilities in Huston to Neil’s (Ryan Gosling) and Janet’s (Claire Foy) ‘household bonding’. Admittedly, the director wanted to show more humane side of our heroes and their wives. And according to critics, he’s hit the bullseye. “Damien really allowed us all enough time to form these friendships before the filming start,” commented Foy at the conference. So when the first day of filming started, it wasn’t stressful at all. It was like a continuation and Damien allowed our friendship ‘bleed through’ onto the set.”
Prominently featured in the film – within the first five minutes into the film – is the loss of Neil’s and Janet’s daughter, which, it is implied, is one of the reasons Neil Armstrong seeks to ‘get away’ and find some solitude. From Mark Armstrong’s words, their sister died on the day of his parents anniversary, “so they never celebrated it. And it was one subject we never spoke about in the family.”
And, while we are sure, everyone dies to know whether the astronauts saw the aliens, the ‘elephant in the room’ was just left hanging there.
The London premiere of the First Man will take place on 30th October 2018 after which, all fans will be able to watch the film on a big screen.