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After seeing First Man, it’s doubtful you’ll think about space flight, or Armstrong’s historic walk, in quite the same way. You’ll know more deeply how it happened, what it meant and what it was, and why its mystery — more than ever — still lingers.
The Film Stage
In its tragic undertones, complex psychological edifice, and claustrophobic visuals, First Man stands out, in both content and form, as a remarkable, jaw-dropping departure from anything Chazelle has previously made.
The Hollywood Reporter
It’s a credit to the filmmakers and to lead actor Ryan Gosling’s thoughtfully internalized performance as Neil Armstrong that this sober, contemplative picture has emotional involvement, visceral tension, and yes, even suspense, in addition to stunning technical craft.
Overall, it’s an impressively mounted film, from the seamless visual effects to the score by Justin Hurwitz, which is flexible enough to accentuate both the film’s tension and its earthbound humanity, to the always exquisite editing by Tom Cross (“Whiplash”), which plays a key role in establishing the characters, the stakes and even the passage of time.
Steering an astonishingly accomplished path between the small steps and the giant leaps of the Apollo 11 mission, reigning Best Director Damien Chazelle opens the 75th Venice Film Festival with First Man, an immersive, immaculately crafted, often spectacular and satisfyingly old-fashioned epic that may well become the definitive moon-landing movie.
First Man is an anti-thriller of rare intensity, with lived-in performances from Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy heightening the sky-high drama at every turn. It’s not a comprehensive look at the Apollo 11 mission, but revisits that famous story from a more intimate angle, even as it delivers a satisfying ride.
Chazelle has always specialised in virtuoso endings, and his sure hand and sharp eye brings this ambitious character study smoothly into land.
It is a movie packed with wonderful vehemence and rapture: it has a yearning to do justice to this existential adventure and to the head-spinning experience of looking back on Earth from another planet.
It’s a beautifully made film, with an impeccable lead performance from Ryan Gosling as the sober, sensitive astronaut. Yet it’s also a film which takes elegant flight but stalls across its extended closing sequences; a project which, in its probing of Armstrong’s emotional mechanisms, neglects the development of other characters who might have anchored it more securely.
This is a respectful movie, even a genuflecting one; there’s never a moment when Chazelle fails to let you know he’s doing important, valuable work. But that’s the problem: The movie feels too fussed-over for such a low-key hero.
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