By Uri Vaknin, Staff Writer
Damien Chazelle’s new film chronicling Neil Armstrong’s life and the moon landing was an exhilarating and technical triumph.
Damien Chazelle’s film “First Man” follows the story of Neil Armstrong, depicting his personal journey with his family as well as the emotional trauma along with the harrowing process of getting to the moon.
Chazelle’s latest film stars Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy. The movie takes place over the course of eight years, 1961 through 1969. Gosling and Foy deliver great performances portraying husband and wife, showing the incredible weight this mission has on their family. The two almost contrast one another with Gosling portraying Armstrong in a very stoic manner and Foy shining in the emotional scenes.
At points, the pacing gets a little off track resulting in large passages of time seem to have been glossed over. However, the scenes where Armstrong and his crew fly into space are executed well and intense at times. The set pieces are handled superbly and the special and practical effects are seamless. The film does a good job involving the audience members on those scenes, making them feel as if they really were on these manned space flights as well.
There are some questions that come to mind during the movie: How much value does this mission to the moon have? Was taking this leap for mankind worth the sacrifice of some of these astronauts? Every time they test a flight or go on a mission, these astronauts can be overwhelmed by the idea that anything can go wrong and may not make it back home to their families. The heavy amounts of anxiety that some of the astronauts go through really adds a lot of realism and intensity. Chazelle uses shaky cam to his advantage in some of these scenes, giving a dreadful and unstable feeling as they’re taking off.
As history goes, the Apollo 11 mission was a success; Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin successfully walked on the moon. This historical moment was translated beautifully onto the big screen. The whole sequence was visually impressive and emotionally powerful.
The film was an overall success, with some strong performances and visceral set pieces. It depicted the events of those years really well and with general accuracy, except for some parts that were tweaked to be more powerful cinematically. After turning out two critically acclaimed films, “Whiplash” and “La La Land,” Chazelle knocks it out of the park once again with this tense biopic, and it is definitely worth checking out.