First Man is unlike any space movie before

Brendan Sheardy, Staff Writer

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First Man (2018) is a biographical film centered around the life of Neil Armstrong and the journey the United States took to get the first man on the moon. This film is directed by Academy Award winning director Damien Chazelle and stars Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, and Jason Clarke.

  This film has been gaining a lot of Oscar momentum, as it debuted at both Venice and Toronto Film Festivals to very strong reviews. I was able to catch a screening two weeks before the film’s release for NASA’s 60th anniversary.

  First Man is incredible. Never has a film about the space race been as captivating and intense as this. Damien Chazelle captures the danger and anxiety of these missions perfectly through his directing. There is one scene in the film that involves Neil inside a ship that is spinning out of control, and it had me gripping my seat. The use of light in this scene heightens the tension as the bright beam of light passes the astronauts faces quicker and quicker as the spacecraft begins to spin faster and faster while intercutting to the spin angle getting larger and larger will have you struggling to breathe and feel dizzy as the anxiety grows larger.

  Many of the films about the space race have been much more uplifting and focused on the spectacle of the space race; some may say they sugar coat it, and after this film, I’d agree. This film takes an entirely different approach.

  Chazelle decides to use the documentary style of filmmaking, which gives us a more intimate and personal view on the Apollo missions, and the entire space race as a whole.

  Not to say this film doesn’t have spectacle, because it does. There is some extremely impressive visual work in this film. The film is mostly shot in 16mm and 35mm film, but for all of the scenes in space, including the finale on the moon, the film switches to 70mm IMAX cameras, which looks incredible on the big screen.

  This film is a technical marvel, showcasing some incredible visual and sound work. These two aspects of the film make you feel like you are sitting in the cockpit with these astronauts. Every time you hear certain sounds or when the shot switches to a view of the window and the camera starts aggressively shaking, you start to feel this overbearing sense of fear and anxiety because it feels like you are inside these ships yourself.

   Cinematographer Linus Sandgren shoots this film beautifully in three different formats of film, which can be a daunting task. While he doesn’t surpass his work in Chazelle’s previous film, La La Land (2016), he still did a phenomenal job here.

  The score by Justin Hurwitz is euphoric. He uses a lot of unusual instruments such as a theremin, moog synthesizer, and an echoplex. This makes the score feel unique and different.

  The score has a lot of nods to the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is made prominent when Hurwitz begins to emulate the track “Blue Danube Waltz” during a docking sequence.

  While the film is a technical masterpiece, the film is also driven by it’s incredible performances. Ryan Gosling plays a simple, and mostly emotionless man who hated being in the public eye. He expertly shows off his talents by portraying Neil’s sense of fear while in the cockpit. He also has two emotionally gut-punching scenes that I believe may win him the oscar.

  Claire Foy does wonderfully as Janet Armstrong, as well. She gives a somewhat reserved performance, but she is able to portray a great deal of emotions with facial expressions. She is really able to shine through in a scene in the 3rd act where she explodes on Neil, and it was incredible.

  The rest of the supporting cast isn’t used quite as much as Gosling and Foy, but they are still all fantastic.

  The great work from the entire cast is what drives the emotional undertone of the film. This mission was extremely dangerous, and we are shown many times how every time these astronauts enter the cockpit, it may very well be the end of their lives, and the film was able to portray that very effectively.

  This film isn’t perfect, however. I did think the first fourth of the film was very rocky. The tone shifted a lot between dark and emotional to somewhat comedic many times, and it felt sloppy. The film is able to pick up quickly after that, and it was incredible from there.

  The finale on the moon features a moment for Neil that perfectly captured his character and was a gut-punching ending that rounds the film’s emotional arc perfectly.

  I loved First Man, it is an intense, emotional, and realistic look into the space race that has incredible directing, sound, and acting. This film releases on October 12, 2018, and I highly recommend going out to see it on the biggest screen possible.

  Rating: 9/10

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First Man is unlike any space movie before