Movie Review – First Man

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A phenomenal achievement in every sense of the word. First Man is the best film ever made about the space program and that is saying a lot when there are great films like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff out there. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) steps away from his musical background and focuses on the story of man’s attempt to land on the moon. In doing so, he hits all the right notes. In his typical unorthodox fashion, Chazelle peels away all of the hero worship and manic patriotism that is often attached to space exploration with a focus on the mission itself. The audience sees the fears, uncertainty, political pressure, family divisions, personal and professional tragedies, etc. which fueled the mission. There’s very little in the way of stand up and cheer moments or ticker tape celebrations in this production. Ryan Gosling is superb playing Neil Armstrong, who gains the singular focus of stepping on the lunar satellite at the expense of everyone, including family, friends and colleagues. Claire Foy is equally good as the silently suffering wife who sacrifices much despite seeing her husband become more and more distant. A veteran group of character actors like Jason Clarke, Ciaran Hinds, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll and Patrick Fugit among others all lend credible performances in support. But the key selling point of First Man is its technical prowess. The cinematography is crisp and clean with wide open vistas of space. The sound effects are top notch as are the visual effects. Even the musical score is expertly crafted to keep the viewer at the edge of their seat. This is auteur film-making, borrowing a little here and there from masters like Kubrick and Ron Howard, while producing something wholly original. You may know the story of the moon mission, but First Man proves to be a minor miracle by making it all seem fresh, new, dangerous and compelling. First Man qualifies as one of the best films of 2018 and its a feature I’ll likely go back and watch a second time. It’s that good.

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