First Man is a perfectly crafted masterpiece that offers the ultimate cinematic experience. The film does an excellent job at portraying the perils and exhilaration of spaceflight. First Man accounts the space races of the 60’s in the eyes of the emotionally damaged hero, Neil Armstrong and it does an exceptional job of laying out the real costs of making it to the moon. Chazelle has an obsession with men who are obsessed. He loves to dissect what makes greatness and the sacrifices that people make to achieve that greatness, which is something that really shines through in this film.
First Man is truly breathtaking and powerful. The film has a lot of handheld camera work which gives it the feeling of a homemade documentary of Neil’s life. The beauty of this technique is especially apparent during the small personal moments with Neil’s family. This automatically escalates the already intense flight sequences because the audience is now thinking about Armstrong’s family just as he would have been during those sequences. All of this, combined with the absolutely beautiful shots of the spacecraft (especially the takeoff of Apollo 11) and the moon, make this film my favourite cinematographic experience of all time.
The lunar sequence is perfect. The moment the camera leaves the landing module and switches to the IMAX format left me instantly in awe. I felt so taken aback during it because, for at least a minute, the movie was purely in silence, (as well as the audience) and for a moment, just a small moment, I really felt like I was on the Moon, and as I was on the verge of tears the fantastic score kicks in. The film is phenomenal at simulating the grandness of space, as well as the emptiness, the loneliness and tranquillity of being on the moon. It really puts into perspective how little we are in this massive, infinite universe. The personal moment we get with Neil was one of the most emotional moments I have ever experienced in film and left me in tears. This was and always will be one of my favourite IMAX experiences.
The score fits the movie perfectly, you can hear the ambition, the anxiety and the emotional toll that is taken on the characters. The passion that Justin Hurwitz had working on this score just stands out in every track. It had me on the verge of tears just listening to it on my Train ride home.
Ryan Gosling delivers a career-best performance. I completely believed that Neil Armstrong felt the way that Gosling portrays. His performance has very little dialogue but is extremely powerful. He shows Neil’s suppression of emotion incredibly well and subtly shows them throughout the film, just as I now believe Neil did. This really emphasises how good of an actor he really is. After all, it is much harder to do an emotionally subtle performance than it is to do a loud one.
This film represents an important, inspiring time in our history and just as landing on the moon was a huge achievement for mankind which had a massive impact on the rest of history, this movie was a huge achievement for film and will surely leave a solid footprint for future films. It definitely had an extraordinarily bold impact on me.