Review: “First Man,” an out-of-this-world journey

Stockton Grunewald, Staff Writer

I have always been fascinated with space – of course, like most space laypersons, I have never really been able to understand much about it. Regardless, audiences across the country seem to have a keen interest in the stars.

From non-fiction classics such as “Apollo 13” to the more outlandish, but astounding, “Interstellar,” space movies generally draw in crowds. Damien Chazelle’s “First Man” is no different.

“First Man” debuted to U.S. audiences on Friday, Oct. 12.

Set in the 1960s, the film chronicles the life of American astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) – from his time as an X-15 test pilot to his position as Commander of Apollo 11.

“First Man,” however, is concerned more about the man than the mission. The audience sees Armstrong at his most vulnerable, coping with the loss of family and friends. The film shows viewers Armstrong’s humanity.

Ryan Gosling’s Armstrong is a man of great determination – he does his homework and strives to do what is best for his wife, Janet (Claire Foy), their children and his colleagues.

Gosling is flanked by several key players from the spaceflight program Project Gemini to the Apollo Project, notably astronauts Ed White (Jason Clarke), Elliot See (Patrick Fugit), and Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll). The actors who play the astronauts give eerily accurate portrayals of their real-life counterparts.

We get a firsthand look into the trials and tribulations of the American space program at the height of the Cold War.

Above anything else, this film is a well-made drama. I found “First Man” to be an incredibly touching story that digs beneath the surface of the man who personified one of the U.S.’ greatest achievements.

If you are a fan of Chazelle’s other work, like “Whiplash” and “La La Land,” there are elements of his style of filmmaking embedded in this film.

Soon after the opening credits, viewers are thrown into the cockpit of an experimental X-15 plane – you will feel like you are there.

I would highly recommend viewing this film, especially in IMAX or Dolby Cinema, if only for the launch and lunar sequences.

“First Man” is an intense, fast-paced, out-of-this-world journey – it may even make you want to learn more about space.


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