This is my interepretation of a film I wasn't ready to love. Boy, was I wrong.
Based on the book "First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong" by James R. Hansen, director Damien Chazelle and writer Josh Singer took the chronicle of an American triumph and emphasised on the personal story behind it. Through Armstrong's stance, the film makes a clear point: Determination, struggle, sacrifice and most of all failure are key ingredients to someone's eventual success. But in order to achieve success you've got to risk everything, albeit success is never guaranteed.
In one scene, Janet Armstrong (excellently played by Claire Foy) claims that she only wanted to lead an ordinary life with her husband. On the contrary, Neil has made a clear choice: He will try to accomplish his great mission, knowing that it is quite possible his kids will never see their father again.
Whenever signs of arrogance, conceit and complacency are shown, they are an omen of failure. On the other hand, Armstrong's attitude is the epitome of how success is to be achieved. He is quite commited to his mission and never behaves immaturely when it comes to it. He is focused on his goal. Family and social life, well that's another story (we often see that Armstrong is incapable of communicating or expressing his feelings to his dearest ones).
Portraying such an introvert character, Gosling has a sole major moment to shine, in a very important scene which proves to be pivotal in terms of what the movie tries to communicate: USA went to the moon to win the Cold War, while Armstrong, after being marked by tragedy, went to the moon in order to find peace (and by the time his daughter's old memento reappears, we assume he has found some). The film is about him; it doesn't care that much about the US agenda. In fact, I thought that it only showed subtle contempt towards the nationalistic celebrations and the passionate political speeches aimed at boosting the spirit of the American people.
Moreover, First Man is one of those biopics where you know what is about to happen, but can't help but get caught up in the rising suspense of its great scenes. At their most exciting, these scenes reach a very satisfying climax, rewarding the audience's patience. Directing and cinematography deserve every accolade they have gotten so far.
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