Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with space exploration, so it’s no surprise that I found myself being drawn to Ryan Gosling’s First Man, which retells the story of Neil Armstrong’s journey of becoming the first man to walk on the moon.
After watching it, I can confirm it provides everything a lifelong space fan would want in a movie about one of humankind’s most amazing technological achievements. It excels at making you feel a part of the drama, and at times you finally get to experience, at least visually and audibly, what it was like for these men to shoot themselves into space in big hunks of riveted metal sitting on top of 1,000 of gallons of rocket fuel.
In short, go see First Man in theaters, but if you need more convincing, please check out my full review below in video or scripted formats.
Hey now you space cowboys, Matt Heywood here to review First Man, a film about one of the most amazing feats man has ever accomplished.
So everyone, I hope at least, knows the general real life story that this film tells, so I’m not going to review the plot per se, because everyone that has studied history knows how Neil Armstrong’s career plays out during the Gemini and Apollo NASA programs. Rather I’ll focus on what makes this telling of Armstrong’s story so special and poignant.
I have been a space junkie since birth, which I credit to my early fascination with Star Wars. The idea of floating around the vacuum of space has mesmerized me for as long as I can remember, which is probably why I loved First Man so much. I’ve seen about every documentary out there on the missions to get man to the moon, so I knew Armstrong and the rest of the early astronaut’s stories pretty well, but thanks to this movie, I now have a better idea of how they felt embarking on the mission to land on the moon, which is thanks to this movie’s mind blowing, and highly artistic cinematography and sound design.
First Man is literally a moving work of art thanks to its soul-enhancing visuals, which aren’t just relegated to the high-intestiy rocket launches and space sequences. This movie looks beautiful in nearly all of its shots, there’s not a scene that doesn’t feature visuals that will make you wonder if you’re in an art gallery or actually watching a historical drama play out on screen.
This is further complimented by the film’s sound design, which to me, sucks you into the world of Armstrong and his fellow explorers even deeper than the astounding visuals. There is one scene in particular that perfectly showcases how this film’s cinematography and sound, when combined, can effectively, in a physical manner, make you feel as if you were sitting in the cockpit alongside Neil. I’m referring to his Gemini 8 mission, which from the start will suck you in and grasp your senses with the force of a rocket thruster. The shaky camera and creaking sounds of the rocket during take off is enough to make you wish you had a seatbelt on. I truly think this scene and a few others provide us regular folks the closet feeling to being shot into space we will ever experience unless we enroll in the space program ourselves.
There are some truly magical moments to be had while watching First Man thanks to its perfect blend of visual awesomeness, and audible mastery. In fact, even though I knew the ultimate outcome of Armstrong’s journey, I still was made to feel extremely tense and nervous during each and every test and mission Ryan Gosling took him on. Right from the onset of this movie that tone is set, so while the end result is known, it somehow has no effect on the level of anxiety you can feel while watching the historic events play out. I’d say that’s a pretty damn special formula that First Man has going for it, and another reason why it’s such a cinematic treat to behold.
Pretty pictures and brain engulfing sound aren’t this film’s only highlights. The cast as a whole does a great job at bringing all of their historical figures to life. Gosling definitely stands out due to the film being from Armstrong’s point of view, and he did a great job at bringing the emotionally complicated character to life. He plays the super smart, but socially awkward character very well, and at the same time he somehow makes this type of person feel very emotional, even though these types of people struggle to show emotion. I was particularly affected by the early loss of his daughter to cancer, which Gosling acts out superbly, making it nearly impossible not to feel for him, or to get a bit depressed if you have your own little kids.
I also thought Clair Foy did a commendable job playing Armstrong’s wife. She, like Ryan, excels at stirring emotions without having to say much. Both of them are so damn good at conveying emotions through their expressions and body language, that they didn’t even have to have lines to let the audience know how their characters are feeling. I do think the heavy focus on Armstrong’s personal life slows the pace of this film down a bit, but it also gives the movie some heart, so ultimately I appreciate the deep dive into what made Neil, Neil.
First Man provided everything I could have asked for going into it. I’ve always been fascinated with the space program during the 60’s when Americans pulled off some of the most impressive technological feats man has ever dreamed of, and this movie brought me even closer to experiencing what men like Neil Armstrong went through to achieve JFK’s goal of sending man to the moon. I can’t even begin to describe how majestical the cinematography is, and the sound design is just as masterful. When combined, these two highlights of this film make for some very intense scenes that provide you with as close as an experience as any of us will get to what it would have been like to be participating in the Gemini and Apollo space missions. I contend that if this movie were in VR and I was strapped to a chair that could vibrate, I would be telling people that I’ve been to space myself thanks to how realistic and intense some of the missions are. That’s definitely a stretch, but hopefully you are picking up my sincerity in regards to how well done this movie is.
Space fans, this is a movie you can’t miss. First Man earns a 9 out of 10 review score from Team EB, and it is highly recommend to see in a theater thanks to its cinematic excellence. You should see this film even if you’re a flat earth asshole, it’s that damn good.
Thanks for watching, Matt Heywood here signing off for EntertainmentBuddha.com, where we make you a better geek, one post at a time.
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