One small step.
First Man follows astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) as prepares for his life changing mission of being the first man to walk on the moon. We see his work life with several colleagues/friends and his home life with wife Janet.(Claire Foy) The film follows him between 1961-1969.
I had really low expectations. Despite adoring director Damien Chazelle's Whiplash and La La Land, it wasn't until everyone started raving about Claire Foy that I even considered seeing this.
In terms of story, it really surprised me. First Man is a very interesting film that takes space travel and what NASA did very, very seriously. They don't sugar coat a thing. They show the dangers of space travel, one could argue that this film as a whole is more about how you deal with death than anything else. It also manages to put you on the edge of your seat even though you know the outcome. I always appreciate when a film based on a true story can do that. But there is one thing that's working against this movie...
It's director Damien Chazelle.
The way he shot this film is atrocious. And it's 100% on him, cinematographer Linus Sandgren hasn't abused this technique before. The majority of this film is shot up close. He was like Tom Hooper shooting Les Miserables on steroids. Had it not been for a few sequences beautifully blended with music, I never would've guessed Chazelle was behind this. It was awful. I don't even buy the excuse of the director wanting you to feel like you're there. No one gets this close to people on a day to day basis. I was sitting in the last row of the theater and I wished I could've stood back further. The best shots of the film are when they do take a step back, but that happens a total of three or four times.
And it's a shame Chazelle chose this method of shooting, because his cast are giving excellent performances. Foy is as good as everyone is saying, though I expected her character to have a bit more to do. Gosling as always is very good. Jason Clarke is another who gives a very strong performance, and they deserved a director who didn't turn his camera into a stage five clinger.
I'll be shocked if this film doesn't take home the sound Oscars. It's incredible, sound mixing and editing isn't something I always notice right away but this one I didn't instantly.
A couple asides - Why does NASA have the shittiest bathrooms ever? And is it just me or is the Armstrong's youngest child treated as an afterthought? Especially when Neil is on the moon thinking about his past?
Grade: C+ (this would've been higher minus the directing)
Memorable Quote: "You're going to do that. Not me. I'm done." - Janet (Claire Foy)