First Man Review: the emotionally riveting and intense story of the moon landing


Space movies don’t do it for me. I enjoy them usually, (with the exception of Interstellar which i hate so much, that you’d think Christopher Nolan ran over my dog) but I never connect with the people in the impressive stories. They usually make me feel unconnected to the events and the characters. In other words, I am bored with space movies. When Damien Chazelle signed on to direct First Man, I was incredibly disappointed. I love his first two movies, (Whiplash and La La Land) and I felt that his talents and potential would be wasted on yet another space movie. The story didn’t excite me either. We know what will happen in this movie. He and Buzz will get picked and sent to the moon. There goes all suspense! It did star Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy, who are both amazing actors, and Damien Chazelle improves any film he is involved in, so I wasn’t completely writing it off. But I wasn’t excited either. I’ve now seen the film twice, and I am so glad that I was wrong.  

Claire Foy plays Neil’s wife Janet in a performance that is a sure bet for Best Supporting Actress come awards season.

This movie is amazing. Those looking for a science focused portrayal of the same story you’ve seen dozens of times before will be disappointed. It feels realistic, and many historians and scientists helped Chazelle with the facts, but the film focuses on Neil’s relationship with his family and his coping with his daughter’s death instead. The movie masterfully balances a real sense of dread with a unparalleled feeling of wonder. You feel Neil’s grief and guilt for the astronauts, some close friends, that die instead of him. You feel Janet’s (his wife) frustration with Neil not talking about his daughter’s death and letting his emotions control him and make him ignore his sons. You feel it all.  

The scenes on Earth aren’t what most people go to this movie for though. I’m glad to report that the scenes in the various rockets and test vehicles are some of the most intense and claustrophobic since the original Alien. The scenes are shot and edited to perfection. Unlike other space films, we see the majority of the action from Neil’s perspective. You feel like the rockets will fall apart at any moment, even though you know it won’t. It keeps you on the edge of your seat until the inevitable (spoiler alert, I guess) moon landing scene. When they do land, it will take your breath away.  

The movie’s soundtrack is the best of the year so far. It’s subtle repeating melodies are a breath of fresh air from the booming BWAAAHS that take up most of the genre. (I really hate Interstellar) If you can’t tell, I love this movie. The emotional highs and lows expertly balance the epic space flights and result in an unforgettable experience. Go see this in the biggest screen possible as soon as possible. 

I give First Man an A+.