Americans know the name Neil Armstrong. The world knows what he did on July 20, 1969. It’s a story that has been told over and over but in the film First Man, we get to see who Neil Armstrong was before he set foot on the moon and what drove him to make American history.
First Man begins by taking us back to 1961, when Armstrong bounced around Earth’s atmosphere and successfully made it back home, a feat that the United States took pride in as they were trying desperately to catch up with the Soviet Union and their advances in space travel. The film chronicled Armstrong’s involvement with N.A.S.A.’s space programs from the project Gemini, to Apollo, leading up to Apollo 11, and documented the figures in and out of the programs that played a key role in history being made from Ed White, Dave Scott, Jim Lovell, Deke Slayton, Buzz Aldrin, to Neil’s family, including his wife Janet, his sons, Rick and Mark, and the families of Neil’s friends and co-workers. First Man details every step, every hand, every detail leading up to the most legendary walk in American history.
The detail that director Damien Chazelle and screenwriter Josh Singer put into adapting James R. Hansen’s acclaimed book, is exquisite, extensive and nothing short of extraordinary. I was riveted by the meticulous craftsmanship that went into the production of this picture and what made it truly special is that the movie was made to be Armstrong’s account of everything that led up to this; this was Armstrong’s story and it was done honestly, it was done with great reverence and though the moon landing was an American milestone, it was done to be an extension of what Armstrong wanted to accomplish.
Damien Chazelle truly is on-his-way to becoming one of the all time great filmmakers if he isn’t already. With First Man, La La Land and Whiplash, he is truly a cinematic storyteller who should be at or near the top of the list in his field; he dove into the crux of the story and unearthed the essence of what made the events that led to the moon landing and what made Armstrong so driven to get to the moon so special and with superb writing from Josh Singer, told an exhilarating and brutal tale that needs to be seen to be believed!
Ryan Gosling is superb, Claire Foy is outstanding, the rest of the cast are great; Jason Clarke, Pablo Schreiber, Christopher Abbott, Ciarán Hinds, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Olivia Hamilton, Luke Winters, Lucy Stafford, Connor Blodgett, this is a big ensemble cast but they each contribute to telling a remarkable story.
Knowing Chazelle, I had a feeling that he would be surrounded by his usual crew and they did not disappoint in the slightest. Justin Hurwitz’s music was exceptional, Linus Sandgren’s cinematography was stupendous, Tom Cross’ editing was top-notch, Nathan Crowley’s production design was excellent, the art direction team supervised by Erik Osusky did a fine job, Randi Hokett and Kathy Lucas nailed the set decoration, Mary Zophres’ costumes were top-of-the-line, the sound effects and visual effects were amazing; I could not be more impressed by the skill and expertise that went into the production of First Man!
A thorough and intense amount of work went into the production of First Man and the result is like watching spacecraft achieve perfect launch, liftoff and touchdown. If the mission was to deliver Neil Armstrong’s account and experience leading up to the Moon, in a stunning, heart-stopping manner, then by all means, mission succeeded!