In honor of NASA’s 60th anniversary, Universal Pictures offered advanced screenings of “First Man” a week early, and I was lucky to attend.
It’s director Damien Chazelle’s adaptation of the landing on the moon mission, and its hero Neil Armstrong. His “La La Land” star Ryan Gosling portrays him with such emotions and integrity, that he deserves an Oscar nomination. We meet Neil, starting when he loses his baby girl to a brain tumor, and continuing with a restart: going to the moon. The mission was known as “Project Gemini.”
Of course, there are a variety of tests and challenges Neil has to engage in. For example, he and David Scott (Christopher Abbott) had to dock two spacecraft, and then, the mission was aborted after Neil prevented a dangerous attack. But finally, he becomes part of the Apollo 11 mission, which was declared the most dangerous mission in history.
We also meet his first wife Janet (Claire Foy), who believes Project Gemini will give Neil a reboot on life. While she’s raising their two boys, he’s testing and risking his life. Ergo, she begins to worry about his safety and well-being. As he prepares for the Apollo 11 mission, she confronts him, and tells him to say goodbye to his boys, in case he doesn’t come home. Her side of the movie does get a little crazy with her raising two boys and some quick shots making me a little dizzy, but look into Foy’s eyes, and you’ll see some truth in her.
You all know the outcome, so no spoiler alerts here. When Neil and Buzz Aldrin (Corey Still) both walk on the moon, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Every space shot is gorgeously photographed with such pure realism, I was reminded of how beautiful space looked in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Gravity,” and “Interstellar.” And I especially love looking at our heroes walking on the moon. The special effects bring these elements to life, and they’re aren’t campy or cheesy. They’re breathtaking.
With an all-star cast (including Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, and Ciaran Hinds), real emotions, and wonderful images, “First Man” will remind older audiences of where they were when the astronauts landed on the moon, and how it’s made an impact on the world. The movie was also based on James R. Hansen’s bibliography “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong,” and Chazelle guides Gosling with the right intentions.
Houston, we don’t have a problem.
Opens Everywhere Next Week