Jacob VanHoutan, Staff Writer
“First Man” is the third film I have seen from director Damien Chazelle, and it is probably his weakest. The film is about the journey of famed astronaut Neil Armstrong and the trials and tribulations he faced on his way to becoming the first man to walk on the moon. It also recounts his family life and the toll of his experience on his wife and children.
Ryan Gosling has played many stoic characters before, and his portrayal of Armstrong is no different in this film. He comes across as you would expect, but Gosling does give a moving portrayal of the man. Janet Armstrong, Armstrong’s wife, is played by Claire Foy, and she actually gives my favorite performance of this film. She really expresses the core drama that the film is built around and watching her struggle with his situation is moving. She has to deal with a lot of problems revolving around the idea of space travel and the effect it has on her kids.
I also think the visual presentation of the film is very well done. Chazelle and his cinematographer, Linus Sandgren, make you feel like you are in the specific time period. Josh Singer’s script is also well done. This film feels a lot more like a family drama than it does a space exploration film. I give credit to the screenwriting that makes the characters more fleshed out and focuses less on the idea of Armstrong’s training and eventual landing on the moon.
I think my biggest problem with “First Man” is that it didn’t wow me like Chazelle’s previous films. “Whiplash” is filled with energy from the very first second of the film and it doesn’t stop until the credits roll. Another example is “La La Land” which works so well as a classic musical redone for the modern times and has some of the most beautiful sequences I have seen in the past couple of years. Even though this film rests in the shadows of his previous films, Chazelle’s “First Man” is very well done and has plenty of elements that I find amazing.
This article was originally published in the Oct. 19, 2018 issue.