Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review First Man (2018)


Based on the book by James R. Hansen, Damien Chazelle, director of ‘Whiplash’ and ‘La La Land’, brings us a raw, visceral look at the ‘Space Race’ between the United States and Soviet Union, and the audacious project to put man on the moon. This isn’t a film about space travel, rather, the journey that lead up to man’s landing on the moon, and the enormous amount of risk, sacrifice, and taxpayer’s money it took to make that pipedream become a reality; only 50 years after man had learned to fly.

For the technical effects alone, First Man needs to be seen. Chazelle showcases a whole host of intimate shots that give us a real sense of what it must have been like for these astronauts, particularly when things didn’t go as planned. The claustrophobic feeling whilst in the shuttles is really quite disconcerting. In contrast, the vastness of the closing space scenes eases the tension with feelings of weightlessness and wonder.

Although Gosling will be seen as the central figure, playing a reserved and unsettled Neil Armstrong following the passing of his daughter, it’s Claire Foy’s performance as Janet Armstrong that really gives us the opening and insight into family life that we need. Overcome with worry and an almost acceptance of helplessness, intensified after catastrophes leave a number of Armstrong’s colleagues dead, Foy conveys a real sense of desperation and anguish.

You’d be forgiven for feeling a little proud when the spacecraft finally reaches the moon’s surface. It’s an incredible film, rounded off with some excellent score work from long time collaborator Justin Hurwitz. A gritty and realistic portrayal of one of man’s greatest achievements. A real treat.

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