About two years after his triumph with La La Land, Damien Chazelle got back behind the camera to direct First Man, that plunges us in the life of Neil Armstrong, the first man who ever walked on the moon. Here is our review of what was undoubtedly one of this year’s most anticipated movies and a film that many cinema lovers expect to win numerous awards in 2019.
“This is one small step for a man but a giant leap for mankind”. Everybody knows this sentence that was uttered by Neil Armstrong on the 21st of July 1969 when he set foot on the moon for the very first time in History. Yet, people are usually less aware of the hardships and difficulties that the three members of the famous Apollo XI mission and the whole staff of the NASA had to face in order to make this historical moment possible. It is those events that Damien Chazelle, known for having directed the unforgettable Whiplash and La La Land, deals with in his new feature film First Man, which adapted from the eponymous book by James R. Hansen. Thus, he draws a very moving portrait of the most celebrated astronaut in the world.
Mixing archive sounds and images and studio reconstitutions with the actors, Damien Chazelle offers us an extremely realistic immersion in the preparation of the most iconic mission of American spatial conquest. Yet, the filmmaker focuses more on the human side of the story than on its technical side. So, we follow the whole Armstrong family during about a decade, as they have to go through the bitter failures and dramas – most of which have been forgotten today- that preceded and permitted the launching of Apollo XI. Therefore, the movie mostly rests upon the great performances of the cast. Ryan Gosling is rather convincing in the role of the astronaut. His silent stiffness underlines the concentration and dedication of a man who, despite tragedies, has to make the impossible come true. Claire Foy, who plays Neil’s wife Janet and is known, above all, for having incarnated Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of The Crown, perfectly portrays this woman who does everything she can to protect her children and keep her own anxiety at bay while her husband leaps into the unknown.
Furthermore, even if some scenes might seem a little bit too long, the magnificent images of Space, the Earth and the Moon, sublimated by a nicely old-fashioned soundtrack, are largely worth spending almost two hours and a half in a movie theatre. Don’t miss it!
First Man, Damien Chazelle, USA, 2018, 2h20, released in the United States of America on the 12th of October 2018, in France on the 17th of October 2018 and in Lebanon on the 18th of October 2018.