First Man is directed by Damien Chazelle and it tells the story of Neil Armstrong who is known for being the first man to ever walk on the moon. This movie tells the emotional side of the story. How Armstrong had to prepare his family with the fact that he might not make it or how many sacrifices were made so that we could go to the moon. This movie stars, Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Kyle Chandler and Corey Stoll.
I was excited to see this movie simply for the fact that most of the people that worked on La La Land came back to team up with Chazelle on this movie. However I did have a bit of stuff happening at the time so I saw it very late, in fact it was the last showing ever. Anyways this movie needed to prove to me one thing. How good of a director is Damien Chazelle? I love Whiplash and La La Land to death but they revolve around music mostly both Jazz-infused. With this being the first movie not revolving around music I was curious if he would succeed or not. However he wrote those movies as well. He only directed this one and it shows.
While I won’t say First Man is as great as those two, I expected an amazing score, great performances, beautiful shots and a good story with emotion and epic moments. I got all of that, my expectations were met. However, there’s one aspect which really holds the movie back for me, the runtime. This movie is two hours and twenty minutes. It didn’t really need to be that long. Because of it’s long runtime, the pacing suffers a lot.
How I see this movie is great epic scene, great emotional scene, great exciting scene, another emotional scene. The movie doesn’t really flow naturally, some scenes seem forced. The interesting thing is that I went to see the trailer again after the movie and there multiple scenes cut out, a good quarter of the trailer showed scenes that weren’t in the movie. Chazelle clearly wanted to make an even longer movie and the studio clearly didn’t let him so most probably he kept the most crucial parts in. I did say that this movie is basically emotion scene after space scene but I did not mean that those scenes were bad by any mean. The space scenes in particular are exciting and they will have you on the edge of your seat. The movie even opens with a riveting scene.
So unfortunately I was starting to lose interest around the third act and I couldn’t really care a lot, I was tired and sleepy, the movie was taking too long and I wasn’t in the mood. So I felt really bad when The Moon Landing Scene came on because all I thought was that it looked cool, that’s it. Looking back on it now, I don’t remember it to be anything out of this world (pun intended). It was beautifully presented, the wonderful score kicks in, there was a sense of wonder and awe but that’s what I expected. It felt like a different movie when that scene came on. Although the one thing that did catch my eye during that scene were the wide beautiful shots.
Ryan Gosling’s performance was amazing. He is such an underrated actor, it pains me. He made me tear up in just the first maybe ten minutes of the movie. There’s this continuous shot of him crying and it made me tear up. I felt for his characters in every scene he was in, even though I know how the story ends. Claire Foy is also great as Armstrong’s wife, she provides the strength and compassionate side of the both the story and the family and I love that. I loved when she starts yelling at Neil to go prepare their children for what might happen. They’re great together even though they don’t have a lot of scenes together.
I also feel like the movie was cut off before it was supposed to. It was a bit rushed. I would’ve liked if some of those unnecessary scenes would be used to show Armstrong’s life after the landing. I was actually surprised when the credits started rolling. Now I don’t blame Chazelle in anyway for this because he did not actually write this movie. So far he has written and directed his movies himself so this movie was a first for him.
Overall First Man has plenty to offer. I definitely recommend seeing it for the performances, gorgeous shots, unique and atmospheric score. It is one of those movies however which feel like a chore to watch and the rushed pacing and way too long of a runtime doesn’t help. I can definitely see myself rewatching it and even buying it.